Pre-clinical studies provide compelling evidence that members of the Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands promote tumor growth, invasion and metastasis, and neovascularization. Tumor suppressive roles have also been reported for the receptors, and ligand-dependent versus ligand-independent signaling has emerged as one key mechanism underlying tumor suppressive function as opposed to oncogenic effects. Determining how these observations relate to clinical outcome is a crucial step for translating the biological and mechanistic data into new molecularly targeted therapies. Expression profiling in human patient samples bridges this gap and provides valuable clinical relevance to laboratory observations. In addition to analyses performed using privately assembled patient tumor samples, publically available microarray datasets and tissue microarrays linked to clinical data have emerged as tractable tools for addressing the clinical relevance of specific molecules and families of related molecules. This review summarizes the clinical relevance of specific Eph and ephrin molecules in human breast, colorectal, and lung cancers.
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