Inflammation is at the forefront of carcinogenesis, tumor progression and resistance to therapy. The Janus kinase (JAK)/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling axis is a central pathway that mediates the cellular response to inflammation and contributes to carcinogenesis. The JAK/STAT pathway coordinates intercellular communication between tumor cells and their immune microenvironment, and JAK/STAT activation leads to the expression of a variety of proteins involved in cell proliferation, cell survival, stemness, self-renewal, evasion of immunosurveillance mechanisms and overall tumor progression. Activation of JAK/STAT signaling also mediates resistance to radiation therapy or cytotoxic agents and modulates tumor cell responses to molecularly targeted and immune modulating drugs. Despite extensive research focused on understanding its signaling mechanisms and downstream phenotypic and functional consequences in hematological disorders, the importance of JAK/STAT signaling in solid tumor initiation and progression has been underappreciated. We highlight the role of chronic inflammation in cancer, the epidemiological evidence for contribution of JAK/STAT to carcinogenesis, the current cancer prevention measures involving JAK/STAT inhibition and the impact of JAK/STAT signaling activity on cancer development, progression and treatment resistance. We also discuss recent therapeutic advances in targeting key factors within the JAK/STAT pathway with single agents and the use of these agents in combination with other targeted therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors.
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