Oncogenic events combined with a favourable environment are the two main factors in the oncological process. The tumour microenvironment is composed of a complex, interconnected network of protagonists, including soluble factors such as cytokines, extracellular matrix components, interacting with fibroblasts, endothelial cells, immune cells and various specific cell types depending on the location of the cancer cells (e.g. pulmonary epithelium, osteoblasts). This diversity defines specific "niches" (e.g. vascular, immune, bone niches) involved in tumour growth and the metastatic process. These actors communicate together by direct intercellular communications and/or in an autocrine/paracrine/endocrine manner involving cytokines and growth factors. Among these glycoproteins, RANKL (receptor activator nuclear factor-κB ligand) and its receptor RANK (receptor activator nuclear factor), members of the TNF and TNFR superfamilies, have stimulated the interest of the scientific community. RANK is frequently expressed by cancer cells in contrast with RANKL which is frequently detected in the tumour microenvironment and together they participate in every step in cancer development. Their activities are markedly regulated by osteoprotegerin (OPG, a soluble decoy receptor) and its ligands, and by LGR4, a membrane receptor able to bind RANKL. The aim of the present review is to provide an overview of the functional implication of the RANK/RANKL system in cancer development, and to underline the most recent clinical studies.
Keywords: RANK; RANKL; microenvironment; oncogenesis.
© 2016 The Author(s).