Non-canonical functions of the RB protein in cancer



The canonical model of RB-mediated tumour suppression developed over the past 30 years is based on the regulation of E2F transcription factors to restrict cell cycle progression. Several additional functions have been proposed for RB, on the basis of which a non-canonical RB pathway can be described. Mechanistically, the non-canonical RB pathway promotes histone modification and regulates chromosome structure in a manner distinct from cell cycle regulation. These functions have implications for chemotherapy response and resistance to targeted anticancer agents. This Opinion offers a framework to guide future studies of RB in basic and clinical research.

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Research in the authors’ laboratories is supported by the US National Institutes of Health (R01 CA207757 and R21 CA179907 to D.W.G., R21 AG050296 and R01 CA114102 to J.S. and R01 GM117413 to N.J.D.) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP-89765 and MOP-64253 to F.A.D.). F.A.D. is the Wolfe Senior Fellow in Tumour Suppressor Genes at Western University. J.S. is the Harriet and Mary Zelencik Scientist in Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases.

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Nature Reviews Cancer thanks E. Knudsen, N. La Thangue and S. Mittnacht for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Author information


  1. London Regional Cancer Program, Children’s Health Research Institute, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

    • Frederick A. Dick
  2. London Regional Cancer Program, Department of Biochemistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

    • Frederick A. Dick
  3. Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA

    • David W. Goodrich
  4. Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Julien Sage
  5. Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Laboratory of Molecular Oncology, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA, USA

    • Nicholas J. Dyson


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F.A.D., J.S. and D.W.G. researched data for the article, provided substantial contribution to the discussion of content, wrote the manuscript and reviewed and/or edited the manuscript before submission. N.J.D. provided substantial contribution to the discussion of content, wrote the manuscript and reviewed and/or edited the manuscript before submission.

Competing interests statement

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frederick A. Dick.