Addiction to protein kinase CK2: a common denominator of diverse cancer cells?

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Mar;1804(3):499-504. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2009.07.018. Epub 2009 Aug 6.


At variance with most oncogenic protein kinases whose malignancy is generally due to genetic alterations conferring constitutive activity, CK2 is a highly pleiotropic Ser/Thr protein kinase naturally endowed with constitutive activity and lacking gain-of-function mutants. Nonetheless CK2 is abnormally elevated in a wide variety of tumors and there is strong evidence that it operates as a cancer driver by creating a cellular environment favorable to neoplasia: notably, CK2 plays a global role as an anti-apoptotic and pro-survival agent, it enhances the multi-drug resistance (MDR) phenotype, it assists the chaperone machinery which protects the "onco-kinome" and it promotes neo-angiogenesis. Based on this scenario we propose that the implication of CK2 in neoplasia is an example of "non oncogene addiction", i.e. over reliance of the perturbed cellular signaling network on high CK2 level for its own maintenance. Consistent with this, an ample spectrum of diverse types of cancer cells have been already shown to rely on high CK2 level for their survival, as judged from their response to specific CK2 inhibitors and silencing of endogenous CK2 catalytic subunits. Remarkably, among these are cells whose cancer phenotype arises from the genetic alteration of onco-kinases (e.g. Abl and Alk) different from CK2 and insensitive to the CK2 inhibitors used in those experiments. Based on these premises, CK2 could represent a "multi-purpose" target for the treatment of different kinds of tumors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Casein Kinase II / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Casein Kinase II / genetics
  • Casein Kinase II / metabolism*
  • Catalytic Domain / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / enzymology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Casein Kinase II