The intricate role of CXCR4 in cancer

Adv Cancer Res. 2014:124:31-82. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-411638-2.00002-1.


Chemokines mediate numerous physiological and pathological processes related primarily to cell homing and migration. The chemokine CXCL12, also known as stromal cell-derived factor-1, binds the G-protein-coupled receptor CXCR4, which, through multiple divergent pathways, leads to chemotaxis, enhanced intracellular calcium, cell adhesion, survival, proliferation, and gene transcription. CXCR4, initially discovered for its involvement in HIV entry and leukocytes trafficking, is overexpressed in more than 23 human cancers. Cancer cell CXCR4 overexpression contributes to tumor growth, invasion, angiogenesis, metastasis, relapse, and therapeutic resistance. CXCR4 antagonism has been shown to disrupt tumor-stromal interactions, sensitize cancer cells to cytotoxic drugs, and reduce tumor growth and metastatic burden. As such, CXCR4 is a target not only for therapeutic intervention but also for noninvasive monitoring of disease progression and therapeutic guidance. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the biological involvement of CXCR4 in human cancers, the current status of CXCR4-based therapeutic approaches, as well as recent advances in noninvasive imaging of CXCR4 expression.

Keywords: CXCL12; CXCR4 inhibitor; CXCR4 tracers; Cancer therapy; Chemokine receptor; Chemotaxis; Metastasis; Molecular imaging; PET–CT; Therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal* / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / immunology
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Receptors, CXCR4