The Nuclear Envelope and Cancer: A Diagnostic Perspective and Historical Overview

  • Jose I. de las HerasEmail author
  • Eric C. Schirmer
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 773)


Cancer has been diagnosed for millennia, but its cellular nature only began to be understood in the mid-nineteenth century when advances in microscopy allowed detailed specimen observations. It was soon noted that cancer cells often possessed nuclei that were altered in size and/or shape. This became an important criterion for cancer diagnosis that continues to be used today. The mechanisms linking nuclear abnormalities and cancer only started to be understood in the second half of the twentieth century, with the discovery of nuclear lamina composition differences in cancer cells compared to normal cells. The nuclear envelope, rather than providing a mere physical barrier between the genetic material in the nucleus and the cytoplasm, is a very important functional hub for many cellular processes. In this review we give an overview of the links between cancer biology and nuclear envelope, from the early days of microscopy until the present day’s understanding of some of the molecular mechanisms behind those links.


Cytology Diagnostics Karyoplasmic ratio NETs NPC Nuclear lamina Nuclear size 



Hematoxylin and eosin


Nuclear envelope transmembrane protein


Nuclear pore complex



Work in the Schirmer lab is supported by Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship 095209.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell BiologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell BiologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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