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Clin Cancer Res. 2002 Apr;8(4):945-54.

Activated STAT signaling in human tumors provides novel molecular targets for therapeutic intervention.

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  • 1Molecular Oncology Program, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, University of South Florida, College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.


The signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT)factors function as downstream effectors of cytokine and growth factor receptor signaling. Compared with normal cells and tissues, constitutively activated STATs have been detected in a wide variety of human cancer cell lines and primary tumors. STATs are activated by tyrosine phosphorylation, which is normally a transient and tightly regulated process. In tumor cells, constitutive activation of STATs is linked to persistent activity of tyrosine kinases, including Src, epidermal growth factor receptor, Janus kinases, Bcr-Abl, and many others. Such oncogenic tyrosine kinases are often activated as a consequence of permanent ligand/receptor engagement in autocrine or paracrine cytokine and growth factor signaling or represent autonomous constitutively active enzymes as a result of genetic alterations found in tumor but not normal cells. Persistent signaling of specific STATs, in particular Stat3 and Stat5, has been demonstrated to directly contribute to oncogenesis by stimulating cell proliferation and preventing apoptosis. STATs participate in oncogenesis through up-regulation of genes encoding apoptosis inhibitors and cell cycle regulators such as Bcl-x(L), Mcl-1, cyclins D1/D2, and c-Myc. Inhibition of constitutively active STAT signaling pathways has been shown repeatedly to inhibit tumor cell growth in vitro and in vivo and provides a novel means for therapeutic intervention in human cancer. In this review, we will: (a) explain the mechanisms of STAT activation in normal and malignant signaling; (b) summarize recent evidence for the critical role of constitutively activated Stat3 and Stat5 in oncogenesis; (c) identify candidate STAT target genes implicated in tumor progression; and (d) discuss molecular and pharmacological strategies to interfere with STAT signaling for potential therapeutic intervention in human cancer.

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