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Br J Cancer. 2009 Jul 21;101(2):209-14. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605174.

The opposing roles of Wnt-5a in cancer.

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  • 1Colorectal Cancer Genetics Group, Institute for Cell and Molecular Sciences, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University, 4 Newark Street, Whitechapel, London E1 2AT, UK.


Wnt-5a is one of the most highly investigated non-canonical Wnts and has been implicated in almost all aspects of non-canonical Wnt signalling. In terms of cancer development, Wnt-5a has, until recently, lived in the shadow of its better-characterised relatives. This was largely because of its apparent inability to transform cells or signal through the canonical beta-catenin pathway that is so important in cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. Recent work in a wide range of human tumours has pointed to a critical role for Wnt-5a in malignant progression, but there is conflicting evidence whether Wnt-5a has a tumour-promoting or -suppressing role. Emerging evidence suggests that the functions of Wnt-5a can be drastically altered depending on the availability of key receptors. Hence, the presence or absence of these receptors may go some way to explain the conflicting role of Wnt-5a in different cancers. This review summarises our current understanding of Wnt-5a and cancer.

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