NF-kappaB and cancer: how intimate is this relationship

Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Mar;336(1-2):25-37. doi: 10.1007/s11010-009-0267-2. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


NF-kappaB, a transcription factor first discovered in 1986, is now known to be closely connected to the process of tumorogenesis based on a multiplicity of evidence. (1) NF-kappaB is activated in response to tobacco, stress, dietary agents, obesity, alcohol, infectious agents, irradiation, and environmental stimuli that account for as much as 95% of all cancers. (2) The transcription factor has been linked with transformation of cells. (3) It is constitutively active in most tumor cells. (4) It has also been linked with the survival of cancer stem cells, an early progenitor cell that has acquired self-renewal potential. (5) NF-kappaB regulates the expression of most anti-apoptotic gene products associated with the survival of the tumor. (6) It also regulates the gene products linked with proliferation of tumors. (7) The transcription factor controls the expression of gene products linked with invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis of cancer. (8) While most carcinogens activate NF-kappaB, most chemopreventive agents suppress its activation. These observations suggest that NF-kappaB is intimately intertwined with cancer growth and metastasis. The mechanism that leads to constitutive activation of NF-kappaB in hematological, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecological, thoracic head and neck, breast, and skin cancers, and the ways NF-kappaB is activated are the topics of discussion in this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / physiology*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Carcinogens
  • NF-kappa B