Background: A growing body of epidemiologic evidence suggests that neurodegenerative
diseases occur less frequently in cancer survivors, and vice versa. While unusual, this inverse
comorbidity is biologically plausible and could be explained, in part, by the evolutionary tradeoffs
made by neurons and cycling cells to optimize the performance of their very different functions.
The two cell types utilize the same proteins and pathways in different, and sometimes opposite,
ways. However, cancer and neurodegeneration also share many pathophysiological features.
Objective: In this review, we compare three overlapping aspects of neurodegeneration and cancer.
Method: First, we contrast the priorities and tradeoffs of dividing cells and neurons and how these
manifest in disease. Second, we consider the hallmarks of biological aging that underlie both neurodegeneration
and cancer. Finally, we utilize information from genetic databases to outline specific
genes and pathways common to both diseases.
Conclusion: We argue that a detailed understanding of the biologic and genetic relationships between
cancer and neurodegeneration can guide future efforts in designing disease-modifying therapeutic
interventions. Lastly, strategies that target aging may prevent or delay both conditions.