ETS transcription factors and their emerging roles in human cancer

Eur J Cancer. 2005 Nov;41(16):2462-78. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2005.08.013. Epub 2005 Oct 6.


Cancer can be defined as a genetic disease, resulting as a consequence of multiple events associated with initiation, promotion and metastatic growth. Cancer results from the loss of control of cellular homeostasis. Cell homeostasis is the result of the balance between proliferation and cell death, while cellular transformation can be viewed as a loss of relationship between these events. Oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes act as modulators of cell proliferation, while the balance of apoptotic and anti-apoptotic genes controls cell death. All cancer cells acquire similar sets of functional capacities: (1) independence from mitogenic/growth signals; (2) loss of sensitivity to "anti-growth" signals; (3) evade apoptosis; (4) Neo-angiogenic conversion; (5) release from senescence; and (6) invasiveness and metastasis. One of the goals of molecular biology is to elucidate the mechanisms that contribute to the development and progression of cancer. Such understanding of the molecular basis of cancer will provide new possibilities for: (1) earlier detection as well as better diagnosis and staging of disease with detection of minimal residual disease recurrences and evaluation of response to therapy; (2) prevention; and (3) novel treatment strategies. We feel that increased understanding of ETS-regulated biological pathways will directly impact these areas. ETS proteins are transcription factors that activate or repress the expression of genes that are involved in various biological processes, including cellular proliferation, differentiation, development, transformation and apoptosis. Identification of target genes that are regulated by a specific transcription factor is one of the most critical areas in understanding the molecular mechanisms that control transcription. Furthermore, identification of target gene promoters for normal and oncogenic transcription factors provides insight into the regulation of genes that are involved in control of normal cell growth, and differentiation, as well as provide information critical to understanding cancer development. This review will highlight the current understanding of ETS genes and their role in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets