Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are important in regulating normal cellular processes whereas deregulated ROS leads to the development of a diseased state in humans including cancers. Several studies have been found to be marked with increased ROS production which activates pro-tumorigenic signaling, enhances cell survival and proliferation and drives DNA damage and genetic instability. However, higher ROS levels have been found to promote anti-tumorigenic signaling by initiating oxidative stress-induced tumor cell death. Tumor cells develop a mechanism where they adjust to the high ROS by expressing elevated levels of antioxidant proteins to detoxify them while maintaining pro-tumorigenic signaling and resistance to apoptosis. Therefore, ROS manipulation can be a potential target for cancer therapies as cancer cells present an altered redox balance in comparison to their normal counterparts. In this review, we aim to provide an overview of the generation and sources of ROS within tumor cells, ROS-associated signaling pathways, their regulation by antioxidant defense systems, as well as the effect of elevated ROS production in tumor progression. It will provide an insight into how pro- and anti-tumorigenic ROS signaling pathways could be manipulated during the treatment of cancer.
Keywords: NFκB pathway; angiogenesis; apoptosis; autophagy; cancer metabolism; drug resistance; metastasis; mitochondrial ROS; oxidative stress; tumor adaptation; tumor progression; tumor targeting; warburg effect.