Elevated RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase signaling have been shown to promote cancer development and metastasis and have drawn much attention as potential targets of anti-cancer therapy. Elevated RhoA and Rho kinase activity promote cancer cell invasion and eventually lead to metastasis by disrupting E-cadherin-mediated adherens junctions and degradation of the extracellular matrix. Elevated p21-activated kinase activity promotes invasion by stimulating cell motility but also promotes cancer cell survival and growth. In this review we describe normal functions of RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase signaling, mechanisms that lead to constitutive activation of RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase pathways, and processes by which constitutive RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase activity promote cancer development and progression to more aggressive and metastatic phenotypes. In addition, we summarize relevant patents on RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase as targets of anti-cancer therapy and discuss the clinical potential of different approaches to modulate RhoA/Rho kinase and p21-activated kinase signaling.
Keywords: Cancer invasion, metastasis, RhoA, Rho kinase, ROCK, p21-activated kinase, PAK, adherens junctions, cell motility, apoptosis
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