The role of the Wnt signaling pathway in cancer stem cells: prospects for drug development
Yong-Mi Kim,1 Michael Kahn2,3
1Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Pediatrics and Pathology, 2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, 3Norris Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Abstract: Cancer stem cells (CSCs), also known as tumor initiating cells are now considered to be the root cause of most if not all cancers, evading treatment and giving rise to disease relapse. They have become a central focus in new drug development. Prospective identification, understanding the key pathways that maintain CSCs, and being able to target CSCs, particularly if the normal stem cell population could be spared, could offer an incredible therapeutic advantage. The Wnt signaling cascade is critically important in stem cell biology, both in homeostatic maintenance of tissues and organs through their respective somatic stem cells and in the CSC/tumor initiating cell population. Aberrant Wnt signaling is associated with a wide array of tumor types. Therefore, the ability to safely target the Wnt signaling pathway offers enormous promise to target CSCs. However, just like the sword of Damocles, significant risks and concerns regarding targeting such a critical pathway in normal stem cell maintenance and tissue homeostasis remain ever present. With this in mind, we review recent efforts in modulating the Wnt signaling cascade and critically analyze therapeutic approaches at various stages of development.
Keywords: beta-catenin, CBP, p300, wnt inhibition
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