Raf kinases in cancer-roles and therapeutic opportunities

Oncogene. 2011 Aug 11;30(32):3477-88. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.160. Epub 2011 May 16.


Raf are conserved, ubiquitous serine/protein kinases discovered as the cellular elements hijacked by transforming retroviruses. The three mammalian RAF proteins (A, B and CRAF) can be activated by the human oncogene RAS, downstream from which they exert both kinase-dependent and kinase-independent, tumor-promoting functions. The kinase-dependent functions are mediated chiefly by the MEK/ERK pathway, whose activation is associated with proliferation in a broad range of human tumors. Almost 10 years ago, activating BRAF mutations were discovered in a subset of human tumors, and in the past year treatment with small-molecule RAF inhibitors has yielded unprecedented response rates in melanoma patients. Thus, Raf qualifies as an excellent molecular target for anticancer therapy. This review focuses on the role of BRAF and CRAF in different aspects of carcinogenesis, on the success of molecular therapies targeting Raf and the challenges they present.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-raf / metabolism*
  • Sulfonamides / therapeutic use
  • Vemurafenib
  • ras Proteins / metabolism


  • Indoles
  • Sulfonamides
  • Vemurafenib
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-raf
  • ras Proteins