RhoC: a fascinating journey from a cytoskeletal organizer to a Cancer stem cell therapeutic target

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Jul 24;38(1):328. doi: 10.1186/s13046-019-1327-4.


Tumor heterogeneity results in differential response to therapy due to the existence of plastic tumor cells, called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which exhibit the property of resistance to therapy, invasion and metastasis. These cells have a distinct, signaling network active at every stage of progression. It is difficult to envisage that the CSCs will have a unique set of signaling pathways regulating every stage of disease progression. Rather, it would be easier to believe that a single pivotal pathway having significant contribution at every stage, which can further turn on a battery of signaling mechanisms specific to that stage, would be instrumental in regulating the signaling network, enabling easy transition from one state to another. In this context, we discuss the role of RhoC which has contributed to several phenotypes during tumor progression.RhoC (Ras homolog gene family member C) has been widely reported to regulate actin organization. It has been shown to impact the motility of cancer cells, resultantly affecting invasion and metastasis, and has contributed to carcinoma progression of the breast, pancreas, lung, ovaries and cervix, among several others. The most interesting finding has been its indispensable role in metastasis. Also, it has the ability to modulate various other phenotypes like angiogenesis, motility, invasion, metastasis, and anoikis resistance. These observations suggest that RhoC imparts the plasticity required by tumor cells to exhibit such diverse functions based on microenvironmental cues. This was further confirmed by recent reports which show that it regulates cancer stem cells in breast, ovary and head and neck cancers. Studies also suggest that the inhibition of RhoC results in abolition of advanced tumor phenotypes.Our review throws light on how RhoC, which is capable of modulating various phenotypes may be the apt core signaling candidate regulating disease progression. Additionally, mice studies show that RhoC is not essential for embryogenesis, giving scope for its development as a possible therapeutic target. This review thus stresses on the need to understand the protein and its functioning in greater detail to enable its development as a stem cell marker and a possible therapeutic target.

Keywords: Cancer stem cells; RhoC; Therapy resistance; Tumor phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / genetics
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • rhoC GTP-Binding Protein / genetics*


  • Actins
  • rhoC GTP-Binding Protein