Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) expressed on immune cells are crucial for the early detection of invading pathogens, in initiating early innate immune response and in orchestrating the adaptive immune response. PRRs are activated by specific pathogen-associated molecular patterns that are present in pathogenic microbes or nucleic acids of viruses or bacteria. However, inappropriate activation of these PRRs, such as the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), due to genetic lesions or chronic inflammation has been demonstrated to be a major cause of many hematological malignancies. Gain-of-function mutations in the TLR adaptor protein MYD88 found in 39% of the activated B cell type of diffuse large B cell lymphomas and almost 100% of Waldenström's macroglobulinemia further highlight the involvement of TLRs in these malignancies. MYD88 mutations result in the chronic activation of TLR signaling pathways, thus the constitutive activation of the transcription factor NFκB to promote cell survival and proliferation. These recent insights into TLR pathway driven malignancies warrant the need for a better understanding of TLRs in cancers and the development of novel anti-cancer therapies targeting TLRs. This review focuses on TLR function and signaling in normal or inflammatory conditions, and how mutations can hijack the TLR signaling pathways to give rise to cancer. Finally, we discuss how potential therapeutic agents could be used to restore normal responses to TLRs and have long lasting anti-tumor effects.
Keywords: MYD88 L265P; Toll-like receptors; cancer; drug targets; inflammation; lymphoma; pattern recognition receptors; self-nucleic acid.