Sphingosine kinase-1--a potential therapeutic target in cancer

Anticancer Drugs. 2007 Feb;18(2):105-10. doi: 10.1097/CAD.0b013e328011334d.


Sphingolipid metabolites play critical functions in the regulation of a number of fundamental biological processes including cancer. Whereas ceramide and sphingosine mediate and trigger apoptosis or cell growth arrest, sphingosine 1-phosphate promotes proliferation and cell survival. The delicate equilibrium between the intracellular levels of each of these sphingolipids is controlled by the enzymes that either produce or degrade these metabolites. Sphingosine kinase-1 is a crucial regulator of this two-pan balance, because it produces the prosurvival sphingosine 1-phosphate, and reduces the content of both ceramide and sphingosine, the proapoptotic sphingolipids. Sphingosine kinase-1 controls the levels of sphingolipids having opposite effects on cell survival/death, its gene was found to be of oncogenic nature, its mRNA is overexpressed in many solid tumors, its overexpression protects cells from apoptosis and its activity is decreased during anticancer treatments. Therefore, sphingosine kinase-1 appears to be a target of interest for therapeutic manipulation via its pharmacological inhibition. Strategies to kill tumor cells by increasing their ceramide and/or sphingosine content while blocking sphingosine 1-phosphate generation should have a favorable therapeutic index.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor) / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor) / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • sphingosine kinase