Retinoic acid receptors and cancers

Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:201-21. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132407.


Studies utilizing experimental animals, epidemiological approaches, cellular models, and clinical trials all provide evidence that retinoic acid and some of its synthetic derivatives (retinoids) are useful pharmacological agents in cancer therapy and prevention. In this chapter, we first review the current knowledge of retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and their role in mediating the actions of retinoic acid. We then focus on a discussion of RARalpha and acute promyelocytic leukemia followed by a discussion of the role of RARs, in particular RARbeta expression, in other cancer types. Loss of normal RAR function in the presence of physiological levels of RA (either due to alterations in the protein structure or level of expression) is associated with a variety of different cancers. In some cases treatment with pharmacological doses of RA can be effective.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism*
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Tretinoin