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The Hedgehog and Wnt signalling pathways in cancer

Abstract

The Wnt and Hedgehog (Hh) signalling pathways have long been known to direct growth and patterning during embryonic development. Recent evidence also implicates these pathways in the postembryonic regulation of stem-cell number in epithelia such as those of the skin and intestine, which undergo constant renewal. A pathological role for the Wnt and Hh pathways has emerged from studies showing a high frequency of specific human cancers associated with mutations that constitutively activate the transcriptional response of these pathways. This article focuses on Hh and Wnt signal transduction and reviews evidence suggesting that tumorigenesis associated with pathway activation may result from mis-specification of cells towards stem-cell or stem cell-like fates.

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Figure 1: Development and growth control.
Figure 2: General characteristics and components of the Hh and Wnt signalling pathways.
Figure 3: A model for tumorigenesis.

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Acknowledgements

We apologize to the authors of original work not cited. Due to editorial limits on references, we were largely limited to citing review articles and more recent original articles that have not been reviewed previously. We thank D. M. Berman for critical review of the manuscript. P.A.B. is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This work was supported by a grant from the NIH.

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Taipale, J., Beachy, P. The Hedgehog and Wnt signalling pathways in cancer. Nature 411, 349–354 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35077219

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