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Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Oct 1;15(19):5962-7. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-0651. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

On Trk--the TrkB signal transduction pathway is an increasingly important target in cancer biology.

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  • 1Cell and Molecular Biology Section, Pediatric Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, CRC, NCI, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


In the beginning, Trk was an oncogene. Yet Neurotrophin-Trk signaling came to preeminence in the field of neurobiology. Now it is appreciated that Trks regulate important processes in nonneuronal cells and, in addition to their impact on tumors of neural origin, may contribute to the pathogenesis of carcinomas, myelomas, and prostate and lymphoid tumors. Although mutations and rearrangements of Trk are seen only sporadically in human cancers, such as medullary thyroid carcinoma, a number of recent studies indicate that expression of TrkB contributes to tumor pathology. In neuroblastoma, TrkA expression marks good prognosis which TrkB and Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression marks poor prognosis. Activation of the BDNF/TrkB signal transduction pathway also stimulates tumor cell survival and angiogenesis and contributes to resistance to cytotoxic drugs and anoikis, enabling cells to acquire many of the characteristic features required for tumorigenesis. Small molecule inhibitors, such as Cephalon's CEP-701, are in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, and a series of AstraZeneca Trk inhibitors are poised to enter the clinic. As monotherapy, inhibitors may be effective only in tumors with activating Trk mutations. Important clinical follow-up will be the assessment of Trk inhibitors in combination with standard chemo- or radiotherapy or other signal transduction pathway inhibitors.

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