Chemokines and cancer


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Abstract

The chemokines and their receptors are a superfamily of small secreted molecules that control the migration of many cell types in the body. Several years ago it became clear that some chemokines and receptors regulate the migration of certain cells in the lymphoid system, and this raised the possibility that chemokines could also control the migration of tumor cells in the body. Breast cancer cells were found to express chemokine receptors in a nonrandom manner, and these observations pointed to several chemokine/receptor pairs that control tumor-cell migration. The most important ligand/receptors pairs in these phenomena include CXCL12/CXCR4 and CCL21/CCR7. Since then, there has been intense interest in this area and many studies have been published, especially on CXCR4. These studies point to the following conclusions: (i) Tumors express chemokine receptors in a nonrandom manner. (ii) CXCR4 is the most widely expressed chemokine receptor in many different cancers. (iii) CCR7 is also expressed by many cancers, and is likely to mediate metastasis to the lymph nodes in selected cancers. (iv) The effects of CXCL12 on CXCR4-bearing tumor cells likely include many other functions (growth, differentiation) besides migration. During normal development, the interaction CXCL12/CXCR4 is known to be involved in organogenesis. This process shares many characteristics with metastasis, and represents one of the key areas of future research.

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