Dysregulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in gastrointestinal cancers

Gastroenterology. 2012 Feb;142(2):219-32. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.12.001. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


Aberrant Wnt/β-catenin signaling is widely implicated in numerous malignancies, including cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Dysregulation of signaling is traditionally attributed to mutations in Axin, adenomatous polyposis coli, and β-catenin that lead to constitutive hyperactivation of the pathway. However, Wnt/β-catenin signaling is also modulated through various other mechanisms in cancer, including cross talk with other altered signaling pathways. A more complex view of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and its role in gastrointestinal cancers is now emerging as divergent phenotypic outcomes are found to be dictated by temporospatial context and relative levels of pathway activation. This review summarizes the dysregulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in colorectal carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, with particular emphasis on the latter two. We conclude by addressing some of the major challenges faced in attempting to target the pathway in the clinic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin