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Am J Pathol. 2013 Sep;183(3):930-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2013.05.014. Epub 2013 Jul 2.

Mechanotransduction pathways promoting tumor progression are activated in invasive human squamous cell carcinoma.

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Division of Surgical Pathology, SA Pathology, Adelaide, Australia.


Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are commonly diagnosed skin cancers that may progress to invasiveness in the absence of early intervention. Using a murine model of SCC, we have previously demonstrated that activation of the Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) signaling pathway promotes rapid progression of pre-neoplastic lesions to invasive SCC. Herein we demonstrate that in human cutaneous SCC, ROCK signaling is increasingly up-regulated with tumor progression in both tumor cells and cells of the tumor microenvironment and is accompanied by key tumor-promoting changes in the extracellular matrix protein composition. The mechanotransduction pathway mediated by integrin signaling through FAK, GSK3β, and the transcription coactivator β-catenin is also progressively activated in human cutaneous SCC. Our observations indicate that ROCK activation is a tumor promoter in human cutaneous SCC and acts via mechanotransduction of signals to β-catenin. Our experiments raise the possibility that inhibition of ROCK signaling could be a useful therapeutic approach to halt cutaneous SCC progression by reducing the signal flux through this pathway to physiologic levels, thereby normalizing the extracellular matrix composition.

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