Is cancer triggered by altered signalling of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors?

Nat Rev Cancer. 2009 Mar;9(3):195-205. doi: 10.1038/nrc2590. Epub 2009 Feb 5.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are the central regulators of stimulatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters that control the synthesis and release of growth, angiogenic and neurotrophic factors in cancer cells, the cancer microenvironment and distant organs. Data discussed in this Review suggests that smoking and possibly other environmental and lifestyle factors increase the function of nAChRs that stimulate cancer cells and reduce the function of nAChRs that inhibit cancer cells. This novel paradigm necessitates the development of marker-guided cancer intervention strategies that aim to restore the balance between nAChR-mediated stimulatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters and their downstream effectors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / chemistry
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptors, Nicotinic