Hedgehog signaling: Networking to nurture a promalignant tumor microenvironment

Academic Article


  • In addition to its role in embryonic development, the Hedgehog pathway has been shown to be an active participant in cancer development, progression, and metastasis. Although this pathway is activated by autocrine signaling by Hedgehog ligands, it can also initiate paracrine signaling with cells in the microenvironment. This creates a network of Hedgehog signaling that determines the malignant behavior of the tumor cells. As a result of paracrine signal transmission, the effects of Hedgehog signaling most profoundly influence the stromal cells that constitute the tumor microenvironment. The stromal cells in turn produce factors that nurture the tumor. Thus, such a resonating cross-talk can amplify Hedgehog signaling, resulting in molecular chatter that overall promotes tumor progression. Inhibitors of Hedgehog signaling have been the subject of intense research. Several of these inhibitors are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Here, we review the role of the Hedgehog pathway in the signature characteristics of cancer cells that determine tumor development, progression, and metastasis. This review condenses the latest findings on the signaling pathways that are activated and/or regulated by molecules generated from Hedgehog signaling in cancer and cites promising clinical interventions. Finally, we discuss future directions for identifying the appropriate patients for therapy, developing reliable markers of efficacy of treatment, and combating resistance to Hedgehog pathway inhibitors. ©2011 AACR.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Harris LG; Samant RS; Shevde LA
  • Start Page

  • 1165
  • End Page

  • 1174
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 9