A comprehensive review of heregulins, HER3, and HER4 as potential therapeutic targets in cancer
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Jose Mauricio Mota1, Katharine Ann Collier3, Ricardo Lima Barros Costa2, Timothy Taxter2, Aparna Kalyan2, Caio A. Leite4, Young Kwang Chae2, Francis J. Giles2 and Benedito A. Carneiro2
1 Instituto do Câncer do Estado de São Paulo, Division of Oncology, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
2 Developmental Therapeutics Program, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
3 Department of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
4 Department of Pharmacology, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Benedito A. Carneiro, email:
Keywords: heregulins, HER3, HER4, cancer, developmental therapeutics
Received: March 19, 2017 Accepted: April 17, 2017 Published: June 13, 2017
Heregulins (HRGs) bind to the receptors HER3 or HER4, induce receptor dimerization, and trigger downstream signaling that leads to tumor progression and resistance to targeted therapies. Increased expression of HRGs has been associated with worse clinical prognosis; therefore, attempts to block HRG-dependent tumor growth have been pursued. This manuscript summarizes the function and signaling of HRGs and review the preclinical evidence of its involvement in carcinogenesis, prognosis, and treatment resistance in several malignancies such as colorectal cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Agents in preclinical development and clinical trials of novel therapeutics targeting HRG-dependent signaling are also discussed, including anti-HER3 and -HER4 antibodies, anti-metalloproteinase agents, and HRG fusion proteins. Although several trials have indicated an acceptable safety profile, translating preclinical findings into clinical practice remains a challenge in this field, possibly due to the complexity of downstream signaling and patterns of HRG, HER3 and HER4 expression in different cancer subtypes. Improving patient selection through biomarkers and understanding the resistance mechanisms may translate into significant clinical benefits in the near future.
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