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The ErbB Receptors and their Ligands in Cancer: An Overview

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This review article provides an overview on the most recent advances on the role of ErbB receptors and growth factors of the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-family of peptides in cancer pathogenesis and progression. The ErbB tyrosine kinases and the EGF-like peptides form a complex system. In fact, the interactions occurring between receptors and ligands of these families affect the type and the duration of the intracellular signals that derive from receptor activation. Interestingly, activation of ErbB receptors is also driven by different classes of membrane receptor, suggesting that ErbB kinases can amplify growth promoting signals carried by different pathways. The importance of ErbB receptors and EGF-like peptides in development of organs and tissues has been demonstrated by using different mouse models. In vitro and in vivo studies have also shown that ErbB receptors and their ligands can act as transforming genes. However, evidence suggests that cooperation of different receptors and ligands is necessary to induce a fully transformed phenotype. Indeed, co-expression of different ErbB receptors and EGF-like growth factors is a common phenomenon in human primary carcinomas. This observation suggests that the growth and the survival of carcinoma cells is sustained by a network of receptors/ligands of the ErbB family. In this respect, the contemporary expression of different ErbB tyrosine kinases and/or EGF-like growth factors in human carcinomas might also affect tumor response to target based agents directed against the ErbB receptor/ligand system.
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Keywords: cancer; development; egf; erbb; growth factors; transgenic mice

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Cell Biology and Preclinical Models Unit, INT-Fondazione Pascale, 80131 Naples, Italy.

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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  • Current Drug Targets aims to cover the latest and most outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry and pharmacology of molecular drug targets e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will be devoted to a single timely topic, with series of in-depth reviews, written by leaders in the field, covering a range of current topics on drug targets. These issues will be organized and led by a guest editor who is a recognized expert in the overall topic. As the discovery, identification, characterisation and validation of novel human drug targets for drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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