The Notch signaling pathway is evolutionarily conserved and responsible for cell fate determination in the developing embryo and mature tissue. At the molecular level, ligand binding activates Notch signaling by liberating the Notch intracellular domain, which then translocates into the nucleus and activates gene transcription. Despite the elegant simplicity of this pathway, which lacks secondary messengers or a signaling cascade, Notch regulates gene expression in a highly context- and cell-type-dependent manner. Notch signaling is frequently dysregulated, most commonly by overactivation, across many cancers and confers a survival advantage on tumors, leading to poorer outcomes for patients. Recent studies demonstrate how Notch signaling increases tumor cell proliferation and provide evidence that active Notch signaling maintains the cancer stem-cell pool, induces epithelial- mesenchymal transition and promotes chemoresistance. These studies imply that pharmacological inhibition of Notch signaling may refine control of cancer therapy and improve patient survival. Gamma secretase inhibitors (GSIs) are drugs that inhibit Notch signaling and may be successful in controlling cancer cell growth in conjunction with standard chemotherapy, but substantial side effects have hampered their widespread use. Recent efforts have been aimed at the development of antibodies against specific Notch receptors and ligands with the hope of limiting side effects while providing the same therapeutic benefit as GSIs. Together, studies characterizing Notch signaling and modulation have offered hope that refined methods targeting Notch may become powerful tools in anticancer therapeutics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research