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J Cell Mol Med. 2013 Apr;17(4):449-56. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.12033. Epub 2013 Mar 14.

Pharmacological modulation of beta-catenin and its applications in cancer therapy.

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Cell Death Research Laboratory, Division of Endocrinology, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, India.


Beta-catenin (β-catenin) is a multifunction protein with a central role in physiological homeostasis. Its abnormal expression leads to various diseases including cancer. In normal physiology, β-catenin either maintains integrity of epithelial tissues or controls transcription of various genes on extracellular instigations. In epithelial tissues, β-catenin functions as a component of the cadherin protein complex and regulates epithelial cell growth and intracellular adhesion. In Wnt signalling, β-catenin is a major transcriptional modulator and plays a crucial role in embryogenesis, stem cell renewal and organ regeneration. Aberrant expression of β-catenin can induce malignant pathways in normal cells and its abnormal activity is also exploited by existing malignant programmes. It acts as an oncogene and modulates transcription of genes to drive cancer initiation, progression, survival and relapse. Abnormal expression and function of β-catenin in cancer makes it a putative drug target. In the past decade, various attempts have been made to identify and characterize various pharmacological inhibitors of β-catenin. Many of these inhibitors are currently being investigated for their anticancer activities in a variety of cancers. The first half of this review will focus on the role of β-catenin in cancer initiation, maintenance, progression and relapse whereas the second half will briefly summarize the recent progress in development of agents for the pharmacological modulation of β-catenin activity in cancer therapeutics.

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