Calcium wave signaling in cancer cells

Life Sci. 2010 Nov 20;87(19-22):587-95. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2010.09.013. Epub 2010 Sep 25.


Ca(2+) functions as an important signaling messenger right from beginning of life to the final moments of the end of life. Ca(2+) is needed at several steps of the cell cycle such as early G(1), at the G(1)/S, and G(2)/M transitions. The Ca(2+) signals in the form of time-dependent changes in intracellular Ca(2+) concentrations, [Ca(2+)](i), are presented as brief spikes organized into regenerative Ca(2+) waves. Ca(2+)-mediated signaling pathways have also been shown to play important roles in carcinogenesis such as transformation of normal cells to cancerous cells, tumor formation and growth, invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis. Since the global Ca(2+) oscillations arise from Ca(2+) waves initiated locally, it results in stochastic oscillations because although each cell has many IP(3)Rs and Ca(2+) ions, the law of large numbers does not apply to the initiating event which is restricted to very few IP(3)Rs due to steep Ca(2+) concentration gradients. The specific Ca(2+) signaling information is likely to be encoded in a calcium code as the amplitude, duration, frequency, waveform or timing of Ca(2+) oscillations and decoded again at a later stage. Since Ca(2+) channels or pumps involved in regulating Ca(2+) signaling pathways show altered expression in cancer, one can target these Ca(2+) channels and pumps as therapeutic options to decrease proliferation of cancer cells and to promote their apoptosis. These studies can provide novel insights into alterations in Ca(2+) wave patterns in carcinogenesis and lead to the development of newer technologies based on Ca(2+) waves for the diagnosis and therapy of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Time Factors


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium