The physiological role of Wnt pathway in normal development and cancer

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2020 Mar;245(5):411-426. doi: 10.1177/1535370220901683. Epub 2020 Jan 29.


Over the decades, many studies have illustrated the critical roles of Wnt signaling pathways in both developmental processes as well as tumorigenesis. Due to the complexity of Wnt signaling regulation, there are still questions to be addressed about ways cells are able to manipulate different types of Wnt pathways in order to fulfill the requirements for normal or cancer development. In this review, we will describe different types of Wnt signaling pathways and their roles in both normal developmental processes and their role in cancer development and progression. Additionally, we will briefly introduce new strategies currently in clinical trials targeting Wnt signaling pathway components for cancer therapy.

Impact statement: Wnt pathway does not only play a critical role in mammalian development but has been hijacked by cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment to promote tumor progression and metastasis. Recent evidence supports further interrogation of the Wnt pathway for bench-to-bedside translation into cancer therapy. This review highlights the role of the Wnt pathway in normal development and tumorigenesis, along with an overview of new therapies currently undergoing clinical trials.

Keywords: Wnt signaling; development; tumorigenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Embryonic Development* / drug effects
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Organogenesis / drug effects
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / drug effects
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents