Purinergic signalling and cancer

Purinergic Signal. 2013 Dec;9(4):491-540. doi: 10.1007/s11302-013-9372-5.


Receptors for extracellular nucleotides are widely expressed by mammalian cells. They mediate a large array of responses ranging from growth stimulation to apoptosis, from chemotaxis to cell differentiation and from nociception to cytokine release, as well as neurotransmission. Pharma industry is involved in the development and clinical testing of drugs selectively targeting the different P1 nucleoside and P2 nucleotide receptor subtypes. As described in detail in the present review, P2 receptors are expressed by all tumours, in some cases to a very high level. Activation or inhibition of selected P2 receptor subtypes brings about cancer cell death or growth inhibition. The field has been largely neglected by current research in oncology, yet the evidence presented in this review, most of which is based on in vitro studies, although with a limited amount from in vivo experiments and human studies, warrants further efforts to explore the therapeutic potential of purinoceptor targeting in cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Purines / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Purines
  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Adenosine Triphosphate