In the adult, many embryologic processes can be co-opted by during cancer progression. The mechanisms of divisions, migration, and the ability to escape immunity recognition linked to specific embryo antigens are also expressed by malignant cells. In particular, cells derived from neural crests (NC) contribute to the development of multiple cell types including melanocytes, craniofacial cartilage, glia, neurons, peripheral and enteric nervous systems, and the adrenal medulla. This plastic performance is due to an accurate program of gene expression orchestrated with cellular/extracellular signals finalized to regulate long-distance migration, proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and survival. During neurulation, prior to initiating their migration, NC cells must undergo an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) in which they alter their actin cytoskeleton, lose their cell–cell junctions, apicobasal polarity, and acquire a motile phenotype. Similarly, during the development of the tumors derived from neural crests, comprising a heterogeneous group of neoplasms (Neural crest-derived tumors (NCDTs)), a group of genes responsible for the EMT pathway is activated. Here, retracing the molecular pathways performed by pluripotent cells at the boundary between neural and non-neural ectoderm in relation to the natural history of NCDT, points of contact or interposition are highlighted to better explain the intricate interplay between cancer cells and the innate and adaptive immune response.
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