The Hedgehog (Hh) pathway has been implicated in a wide variety of human tumors, and early clinical trials with pathway antagonists have validated Hh signaling as a bona fide anticancer target. Despite these encouraging results, several issues surrounding the basic biology of the Hh pathway in human cancers remain unclear. These include the influence of specific oncogenic events on Hh signal transduction, the precise mode of Hh signaling (i.e., autocrine or paracrine) that occurs within human tumors, and the best means to inhibit aberrant pathway activity in the clinical setting. The cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis may explain a number of clinical phenomena, such as unchecked self-renewal and the development of metastatic disease, and to some extent, the Hh signaling pathway has been implicated in all of these processes. Therefore, Hh pathway inhibitors may also represent some of the first agents to formally examine the CSC hypothesis in the clinical setting. The diverse nature of Hh signaling in human cancers suggests that disease-specific factors must be carefully considered to identify the optimal use of novel pathway inhibitors. Clin Cancer Res; 16(12); 3130–40. ©2010 AACR.
- Received December 31, 2009.
- Revision received March 31, 2010.
- Accepted April 9, 2010.