Targeting developmental pathways: the Achilles Heel of cancer?

Dempke, Wolfram C M, Fenchel, Klaus, Uciechowski, Peter and Chevassut, Timothy (2017) Targeting developmental pathways: the Achilles Heel of cancer? Oncology. ISSN 0030-2414

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Developmental pathways (e.g., Notch, Hippo, Hedgehog, Wnt, and TGF-β/BMP/FGF) are networks of genes that act co-ordinately to establish the body plan, and disruptions of genes in one pathway can have effects in related pathways and may result in serious dysmorphogenesis or cancer. Interestingly, all developmental pathways are highly conserved cell signalling systems present in almost all multicellular organisms. In addition, they have a crucial role in cell proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, and finally in organ development. Of note, almost all of these pathways promote oncogenesis through synergistic associations with the Hippo signalling pathway, and several lines of evidence have also indicated that these pathways (e.g., Wnt/β-catenin) may be implicated in checkpoint inhibitor resistance (e.g., CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1). Since Notch inhibition in vivo results in partial loss of its stemness features such as self-renewal, chemoresistance, invasive and migratory potential, and tumorigenesis, these highly conserved developmental pathways are regarded as being critical for regulation of self-renewal in both embryonic and adult stem cells and hence are likely to be implicated in the maintenance of cancer stem cells. Many small molecules are currently in preclinical and early clinical development, and only two compounds are approved for treatment of advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma (vismodegib and sonidegib). Furthermore, therapeutic targeting of cancer stem cells using drugs that disrupt activated developmental pathways may also represent an attractive strategy that is potentially relevant to many types of malignancy, notably blood cancers, where the evidence for leukaemia stem cells is well established. Future work will hopefully pave the way for the development of new strategies for targeting these pervasive oncogenic pathways.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology Including cancer and carcinogens
Depositing User: Timothy Chevassut
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2017 09:00
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2018 01:00

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