Inter-cellular adhesion disruption and the RAS/RAF and beta-catenin signalling in lung cancer progression

Cancer Cell Int. 2008 May 20;8:7. doi: 10.1186/1475-2867-8-7.


Cadherin cell adhesion molecules play an essential role in creating tight intercellular association and their loss has been correlated with poor prognosis in human cancer. Mutational activation of protein kinases and loss of cell adhesion occur together in human lung adenocarcinoma but how these two pathways interconnect is only poorly understood. Mouse models of human lung adenocarcinoma with oncogene expression targeted to subtypes of lung epithelial cells led to formation of adenomas or adenocarcinomas that lacked metastatic potential. Conditional genetic abrogation of epithelial tumour cell adhesion in mice with benign lung tumours induced by oncogenic RAF kinase has been demonstrated to induce intratumourous vascularization (angiogenic switch), progression to invasive adenocarcinoma and micrometastasis. Importantly, breaking cell adhesion in benign oncogene-driven lung tumour cells activated beta-catenin signalling and induced the expression of several genes that are normally expressed in intestine rather than the lung. I will discuss potential routes to nuclear beta-catenin signalling in cancer and how nuclear beta-catenin may epigenetically alter the plasticity of tumour cells during malignant progression.