The role of the unfolded protein response in tumour development: friend or foe?

Nat Rev Cancer. 2004 Dec;4(12):966-77. doi: 10.1038/nrc1505.


Having accumulated mutations that overcome cell-cycle and apoptotic checkpoints, the main obstacle to survival faced by a cancer cell is the restricted supply of nutrients and oxygen. These conditions impinge on protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum and activate a largely cytoprotective signalling pathway called the unfolded protein response. Prolonged activation of this response can, however, terminate in apoptosis. Recent delineation of the components of this response, coupled with several clinical studies, indicate that it is uniquely poised to have a role in regulating the balance between cancer cell death, dormancy and aggressive growth, as well as altering the sensitivity of solid tumours to chemotherapeutic agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / classification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Protein Folding


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Neoplasm Proteins