NF-κB and the link between inflammation and cancer

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The nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) transcription factor family has been considered the central mediator of the inflammatory process and a key participant in innate and adaptive immune responses. Coincident with the molecular cloning of NF-κB/RelA and identification of its kinship to the v-Rel oncogene, it was anticipated that NF-κB itself would be involved in cancer development. Oncogenic activating mutations in NF-κB genes are rare and have been identified only in some lymphoid malignancies, while most NF-κB activating mutations in lymphoid malignancies occur in upstream signaling components that feed into NF-κB. NF-κB activation is also prevalent in carcinomas, in which NF-κB activation is mainly driven by inflammatory cytokines within the tumor microenvironment. Importantly, however, in all malignancies, NF-κB acts in a cell type-specific manner: activating survival genes within cancer cells and inflammation-promoting genes in components of the tumor microenvironment. Yet, the complex biological functions of NF-κB have made its therapeutic targeting a challenge.

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