A number of experimental evidences in cell biology and pharmacology demonstrate that cancer cells, as well as stem and other proliferating cells, exhibit ion channels expression, ion conductances and electric properties very different from that of resting cells. These peculiar properties are functionally involved in cancer pathogenesis. A systematic approach in recognizing these peculiarities in cancer cells and tissues could be very useful in the prognosis and molecular classification of various types of cancer. From a therapeutic perspective, inhibitors and modulators of ion channels have been demonstrated to be able to impair cancer cell proliferation in vitro and, in a few studies, to counteract cancer progression in vivo. Early attempts to modulate cellular ion conductances with electromagnetic fields are also present in the literature and represent interesting starting points for future research. In clinical oncology, the relevance of ion channels is not currently recognized thus clinical applications are missing. But, in the light of the data here reviewed, preclinical and clinical experimentation in this field appear not only rational but also strongly advisable.
Keywords: Ion channels, conductances, inhibitors, modulators, electromagnetic fields, channellopathies, proliferation, cancer, diagnosis, therapy
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