Notch signaling in cancer

Cancer Biol Ther. Sep-Oct 2002;1(5):466-76. doi: 10.4161/cbt.1.5.159.


Notch signaling plays a key role in the normal development of many tissues and cell types, through diverse effects on differentiation, survival, and/or proliferation that are highly dependent on signal strength and cellular context. Because perturbations in the regulation of differentiation, survival, and/or proliferation underlie malignant transformation, pathophysiologic Notch signals potentially contribute to cancer development in several different ways. Notch signaling was first linked to tumorigenesis through identification of a recurrent t(7;9)(q34;q34.3) chromosomal translocation involving the human Notch1 gene that is found in a small subset of human pre-T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL).(1) Since this discovery, aberrant Notch signaling has been suggested to be involved in a wide variety of human neoplasms. In this review, we will focus on recent studies linking aberrant Notch signaling with cancer. First, we discuss various mechanisms through which Notch signaling may influence cellular transformation. Then, we critically review literature pertaining to the role of Notch signaling in several cancers, and discuss possible therapeutic targets in the Notch pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Viral
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Oncogenic Viruses / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Notch