Tyrosine phosphorylation has a key role in intracellular signaling. Inappropriate proliferation and survival cues in tumor cells often occur as a consequence of unregulated tyrosine kinase activity. Much of the current development of anti-cancer therapies tries to target causative proteins in a specific manner to minimize side-effects. One attractive group of target proteins is the kinases. c-Kit is a receptor tyrosine kinase that normally controls the function of primitive hematopoietic cells, melanocytes and germ cells. It has become clear that uncontrolled activity of c-Kit contributes to formation of an array of human tumors. The unregulated activity of c-Kit may be due to overexpression, autocrine loops or mutational activation. This makes c-Kit an excellent target for cancer therapies in these tumors. In this review we will highlight the current knowledge on the signal transduction molecules and pathways activated by c-Kit under normal conditions and in cancer cells, and the role of aberrant c-Kit signaling in cancer progression. Recent advances in the development of specific inhibitors interfering with these signal transduction pathways will be discussed.
Keywords: Stem cell factor, c-Kit, receptor tyrosine kinase, signal transduction, transformation, cancer, leukemia
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