GPCRomics: GPCR Expression in Cancer Cells and Tumors Identifies New, Potential Biomarkers and Therapeutic Targets

Front Pharmacol. 2018 May 22;9:431. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00431. eCollection 2018.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the largest family of targets for approved drugs, are rarely targeted for cancer treatment, except for certain endocrine and hormone-responsive tumors. Limited knowledge regarding GPCR expression in cancer cells likely has contributed to this lack of use of GPCR-targeted drugs as cancer therapeutics. We thus undertook GPCRomic studies to define the expression of endoGPCRs (which respond to endogenous molecules such as hormones, neurotransmitters and metabolites) in multiple types of cancer cells. Using TaqMan qPCR arrays to quantify the mRNA expression of ∼340 such GPCRs, we found that human chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells/stromal cells associated with CLL, breast cancer cell lines, colon cancer cell lines, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells, cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and PDAC tumors express 50 to >100 GPCRs, including many orphan GPCRs (which lack known physiologic agonists). Limited prior data exist regarding the expression or function of most of the highly expressed GPCRs in these cancer cells and tumors. Independent results from public cancer gene expression databases confirm the expression of such GPCRs. We propose that highly expressed GPCRs in cancer cells (for example, GPRC5A in PDAC and colon cancer cells and GPR68 in PDAC CAFs) may contribute to the malignant phenotype, serve as biomarkers and/or may be novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer.

Keywords: GPCR array; breast cancer; cancer microenvironment; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; colon cancer; orphan receptors; pancreatic cancer.