Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Cancer biology

Two-faced cancer gene

Certain cancer drugs inhibit the powerful gene regulator NF-κB, overactivity of which drives some cancers. However, two groups now show that NF-κB also stimulates some tumour cells to senesce, or stop dividing, during chemotherapy. This suggests that, in some patients, NF-κB inhibitors could stimulate rather than inhibit cancer.

Scott Lowe of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and his colleagues found that NF-κB activates many senescence-associated genes. In a mouse model of lymphoma, inhibiting NF-κB boosted drug resistance and early relapse, and reduced survival.

Clemens Schmitt at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin and his colleagues found that maintaining a senescent cell state using a chemotherapeutic agent requires active NF-κB signalling. Furthermore, the group analysed data from patients with lymphoma and identified a subpopulation in which hyperactive NF-κB signalling is associated with longer survival.

Genes Dev. 10.1101/gad.17276711 (2011); Genes Dev. 10.1101/gad.17620611 (2011)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Two-faced cancer gene. Nature 478, 288–289 (2011).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing