The Hedgehog and Wnt signalling pathways in cancer

Nature. 2001 May 17;411(6835):349-54. doi: 10.1038/35077219.


The Wnt and Hedgehog (Hh) signalling pathways have long been known to direct growth and patterning during embryonic development. Recent evidence also implicates these pathways in the postembryonic regulation of stem-cell number in epithelia such as those of the skin and intestine, which undergo constant renewal. A pathological role for the Wnt and Hh pathways has emerged from studies showing a high frequency of specific human cancers associated with mutations that constitutively activate the transcriptional response of these pathways. This article focuses on Hh and Wnt signal transduction and reviews evidence suggesting that tumorigenesis associated with pathway activation may result from mis-specification of cells towards stem-cell or stem cell-like fates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins*


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins