The calpain system and cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2011 May;11(5):364-74. doi: 10.1038/nrc3050.


The calpains are a conserved family of cysteine proteinases that catalyse the controlled proteolysis of many specific substrates. Calpain activity is implicated in several fundamental physiological processes, including cytoskeletal remodelling, cellular signalling, apoptosis and cell survival. Calpain expression is altered during tumorigenesis, and the proteolysis of numerous substrates, such as inhibitors of nuclear factor-κB (IκB), focal adhesion proteins (including, focal adhesion kinase and talin) and proto-oncogenes (for example, MYC), has been implicated in tumour pathogenesis. Recent evidence indicates that the increased expression of certain family members might influence the response to cancer therapies, providing justification for the development of novel calpain inhibitors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Calpain / physiology*
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Signal Transduction


  • Calpain