Significance: Reactive oxygen species (ROS) promote genomic instability, altered signal transduction, and an environment that can sustain tumor formation and growth. The NOX family of NADPH oxidases, membrane-bound epithelial superoxide and hydrogen peroxide producers, plays a critical role in the maintenance of immune function, cell growth, and apoptosis. The impact of NOX enzymes in carcinogenesis is currently being defined and may directly link chronic inflammation and NOX ROS-mediated tumor formation.
Recent advances: Increased interest in the function of NOX enzymes in tumor biology has spurred a surge of investigative effort to understand the variability of NOX expression levels in tumors and the effect of NOX activity on tumor cell proliferation. These initial efforts have demonstrated a wide variance in NOX distribution and expression levels across numerous cancers as well as in common tumor cell lines, suggesting that much remains to be discovered about the unique role of NOX-related ROS production within each system. Progression from in vitro cell line studies toward in vivo tumor tissue screening and xenograft models has begun to provide evidence supporting the importance of NOX expression in carcinogenesis.
Critical issues: A lack of universally available, isoform-specific antibodies and animal tumor models of inducible knockout or over-expression of NOX isoforms has hindered progress toward the completion of in vivo studies.
Future directions: In vivo validation experiments and the use of large, existing gene expression data sets should help define the best model systems for studying the NOX homologues in the context of cancer.