Signaling pathways in breast cancer: therapeutic targeting of the microenvironment

Cell Signal. 2014 Dec;26(12):2843-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2014.07.034. Epub 2014 Aug 3.


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Understanding the biology of this malignant disease is a prerequisite for selecting an appropriate treatment. Cell cycle alterations are seen in many cancers, including breast cancer. Newly popular targeted agents in breast cancer include cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKIs) which are agents inhibiting the function of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs) and agents targeting proto-oncogenic signaling pathways like Notch, Wnt, and SHH (Sonic hedgehog). CDKIs are categorized as selective and non-selective inhibitors of CDK. CDKIs have been tried as monotherapy and combination therapy. The CDKI Palbocyclib is now a promising therapeutic in breast cancer. This drug recently entered phase III trial for estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer after showing encouraging results in progression free survival in a phase II trials. The tumor microenvironment is now recognized as a significant factor in cancer treatment response. The tumor microenvironment is increasingly considered as a target for combination therapy of breast cancer. Recent findings in the signaling pathways in breast cancer are herein summarized and discussed. Furthermore, the therapeutic targeting of the microenvironment in breast cancer is also considered.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Chemo-resistance; Microenvironment; Signaling pathways; Targeted therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Cycle
  • Female
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Hormones