Reduction–oxidation pathways involved in cancer development: a systematic review of literature reviews

Xīn Gào and Ben Schöttker _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:51888-51906. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17128

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Xīn Gào1,2 and Ben Schöttker1,2,3

1 Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany

2 Network Aging Research, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

3 Institute of Health Care and Social Sciences, FOM University, Essen, Germany

Correspondence to:

Ben Schöttker, email:

Keywords: neoplasm; oxidative stress; redox signaling; signal transduction; reactive oxygen species

Received: November 04, 2016 Accepted: April 03, 2017 Published: April 16, 2017


Oxidative stress results from an imbalance of the reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) production and the oxidants defense system. Extensive research during the last decades has revealed that oxidative stress can mediate cancer initiation and development by leading not only to molecular damage but also to a disruption of reduction–oxidation (redox) signaling. In order to provide a global overview of the redox signaling pathways, which play a role in cancer formation, we conducted a systematic literature search in PubMed and ISI Web of Science and identified 185 relevant reviews published in the last 10 years. The 20 most frequently described pathways were selected to be presented in this systematic review and could be categorized into 3 groups: Intracellular ROS/RNS generating organelles and enzymes, signal transduction cascades kinases/phosphatases and transcription factors. Intracellular ROS/RNS generation organelles are mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes. Enzymes, including NOX, COX, LOX and NOS, are the most prominent enzymes generating ROS/RNS. ROS/RNS act as redox messengers of transmembrane receptors and trigger the activation or inhibition of signal transduction kinases/phosphatases, such as the family members of protein tyrosine kinases and protein tyrosine phosphatases. Furthermore, these reactions activate downstream signaling pathways including protein kinase of the MAPK cascade, PI3K and PKC. The kinases and phosphatases regulate the phosphorylation status of transcription factors including APE1/Ref-1, HIF-1α, AP-1, Nrf2, NF-κB, p53, FOXO, STAT, and β-catenin. Finally, we briefly discuss cancer prevention and treatment opportunities, which address redox pathways and further research needs.

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