The homeobox domain transcription factor NANOG, a key regulator of embryonic development and cellular reprogramming, has been reported to be broadly expressed in human cancers. Functional studies have provided strong evidence that NANOG possesses protumorigenic attributes. In addition to promoting self-renewal and long-term proliferative potential of stem-like cancer cells, NANOG-mediated oncogenic reprogramming may underlie clinical manifestations of malignant disease. In this review, we examine the molecular origin, expression, biological activities, and mechanisms of action of NANOG in various malignancies. We also consider clinical implications such as correlations between NANOG expression and cancer prognosis and/or response to therapy. We surmise that NANOG potentiates the molecular circuitry of tumorigenesis, and thus may represent a novel therapeutic target or biomarker for the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment outcome of cancer. Finally, we present critical pending questions relating NANOG to cancer stem cells and tumor development.
Keywords: Cancer stem cells; NANOG; Self-renewal; Tumor development.
© 2015 AlphaMed Press.