The Hedgehog-GLI pathway in embryonic development and cancer: implications for pulmonary oncology therapy

Leonel Armas-López, Joaquín Zúñiga, Oscar Arrieta and Federico Ávila-Moreno _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:60684-60703. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.19527

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Leonel Armas-López1, Joaquín Zúñiga2, Oscar Arrieta3 and Federico Ávila-Moreno1,2

1Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Facultad de Estudios Superiores (FES) Iztacala, Biomedicine Research Unit (UBIMED), Cancer Epigenomics And Lung Diseases Laboratory (UNAM-INER), Mexico City, México

2Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias (INER), Ismael Cosío Villegas, Research Unit, Mexico City, México

3Instituto Nacional de Cancerología (INCAN), Thoracic Oncology Clinic, Mexico City, México

Correspondence to:

Federico Ávila-Moreno, email: [email protected], [email protected]

Keywords: lung cancer, epigenetics, lncRNAs, biomarkers, therapy

Received: May 07, 2017     Accepted: July 12, 2017     Published: July 24, 2017


Transcriptional regulation and epigenetic mechanisms closely control gene expression through diverse physiological and pathophysiological processes. These include the development of germ layers and post-natal epithelial cell-tissue differentiation, as well as, involved with the induction, promotion and/or progression of human malignancies.

Diverse studies have shed light on the molecular similarities and differences involved in the stages of embryological epithelial development and dedifferentiation processes in malignant tumors of epithelial origin, of which many focus on lung carcinomas. In lung cancer, several transcriptional, epigenetic and genetic aberrations have been described to partly arise from environmental risk factors, but ethnic genetic predisposition factors may also play a role.

The classification of the molecular hallmarks of cancer has been essential to study and achieve a comprehensive view of the interaction networks between cell signaling pathways and functional roles of the transcriptional and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms. This has in turn increased understanding on how these molecular networks are involved in embryo-layers and malignant diseases development. Ultimately, a major biomedicine goal is to achieve a thorough understanding of their roles as diagnostic, prognostic and treatment response indicators in lung oncological patients.

Recently, several notable cell-signaling pathways have been studied based on their contribution to promoting and/or regulating the engagement of different cancer hallmarks, among them genome instability, exacerbated proliferative signaling, replicative immortality, tumor invasion-metastasis, inflammation, and immune-surveillance evasion mechanisms. Of these, the Hedgehog-GLI (Hh) cell-signaling pathway has been identified as a main molecular contribution into several of the abovementioned functional embryo-malignancy processes. Nonetheless, the systematic study of the regulatory epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms has remained mostly unexplored, which could identify the interaction networks between specific biomarkers and/or new therapeutic targets in malignant tumor progression and resistance to lung oncologic therapy.

In the present work, we aimed to revise the most important up-to-date experimental and clinical findings in biology, embryology and cancer research regarding the Hh pathway. We explore the potential control of the transcriptional-epigenetic programming versus reprogramming mechanisms associated with its Hh-GLI cell signaling pathway members. Last, we present a summary of this information to systematically integrate the Hh signaling pathway to identify and propose novel compound strategies or better oncological therapeutic schemes for lung cancer patients.

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