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Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Mar 1;16(5):1384-90. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-0788. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Cyclooxygenase-2 and cancer treatment: understanding the risk should be worth the reward.

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Department of Cancer Biology and GI Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.


Targeting the prostaglandin (PG) pathway is potentially a critical intervention for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Central to PG biosynthesis are two isoforms of cyclooxygenase (COX 1 and 2), which produce prostaglandin H(2) (PGH(2)) from plasma membrane stores of fatty acids. COX-1 is constitutively expressed, whereas COX-2 is an inducible isoform upregulated in many cancers. Differences between COX-1 and COX-2 catalytic sites enabled development of selective inhibitors. Downstream of the COX enzymes, prostaglandin E(2) synthase converts available PGH(2) to prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), which can stimulate cancer progression. Significant research efforts are helping identify more selective targets and fully elucidate the downstream targets of prostaglandin E(2)-mediated oncogenesis. Nonetheless, as a key rate-limiting control point of PG biosynthesis, COX-2 continues to be an important anticancer target. As we embark upon a new era of individualized medicine, a better understanding of the individual risk and/or benefit involved in COX-2 selective targeting is rapidly evolving. This review endeavors to summarize developments in our understanding of COX-2 and its downstream targets as vital areas of anticancer research and to provide the current status of an exciting aspect of molecular medicine.

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