Drug Development Against Metastasis-Related Genes and Their Pathways: A Rationale for Cancer Therapy

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Dec;1786(2):87-104. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2008.07.002. Epub 2008 Jul 22.


It is well recognized that the majority of cancer related deaths is caused by metastatic diseases. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of therapeutic intervention specifically targeted to the metastatic process. In the last decade, significant progress has been made in this research field, and many new concepts have emerged that shed light on the molecular mechanism of metastasis cascade which is often portrayed as a succession of six distinct steps; localized invasion, intravasation, translocation, extravasation, micrometastasis and colonization. Successful metastasis is dependent on the balance and complex interplay of both the metastasis promoters and suppressors in each step. Therefore, the basic strategy of our interventions is aimed at either blocking the promoters or potentiating the suppressors in this disease process. Toward this goal, various kinds of antibodies and small molecules have been designed. These include agents that block the ligand-recepter interaction of metastasis promoters (HGF/c-Met), antagonize the metastasis-promoting enzymes (AMF, uPA and MMP) and inhibit the transcriptional activity of metastasis promoter (beta-Catenin). On the other hand, the intriguing roles of metastasis suppressors and their signal pathways have been extensively studied and various attempts have been made to potentiate these factors. Small molecules have been developed to restore the expression or mimic the function of metastasis-suppressor genes such as NM23, E-cadherin, Kiss-1, MKK4 and NDRG1, and some of them are under clinical trials. This review summarizes our current understanding of the molecular pathway of tumor metastasis and discusses strategies and recent development of anti-metastatic drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinogens / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Carcinogens
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins