Ion channels and cancer

J Membr Biol. 2005 Jun;205(3):159-73. doi: 10.1007/s00232-005-0781-4.


Membrane ion channels are essential for cell proliferation and appear to have a role in the development of cancer. This has initially been demonstrated for potassium channels and is meanwhile also suggested for other cation channels and Cl- channels. For some of these channels, like voltage-gated ether à go-go and Ca2+-dependent potassium channels as well as calcium and chloride channels, a cell cycle-dependent function has been demonstrated. Along with other membrane conductances, these channels control the membrane voltage and Ca2+ signaling in proliferating cells. Homeostatic parameters, such as the intracellular ion concentration, cytosolic pH and cell volume, are also governed by the activity of ion channels. Thus it will be an essential task for future studies to unravel cell cycle-specific effects of ion channels and non-specific homeostatic functions. When studying the role of ion channels in cancer cells, it is indispensable to choose experimental conditions that come close to the in vivo situation. Thus, environmental parameters, such as low oxygen pressure, acidosis and exposure to serum proteins, have to be taken into account. In order to achieve clinical application, more studies on the original cancer tissue are required, and improved animal models. Finally, it will be essential to generate more potent and specific inhibitors of ion channels to overcome the shortcomings of some of the current approaches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Size
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Chloride Channels / physiology
  • Cytosol / physiology
  • Growth Substances / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / physiology


  • Calcium Channels
  • Chloride Channels
  • Growth Substances
  • Ion Channels
  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated