Specificity protein transcription factors and cancer: Opportunities for drug development

Stephen Safe, James Abbruzzese, Maen Abdelrahim, Erik Hedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors (TFs) such as Sp1 are critical for early development but their expression decreases with age and there is evidence that transformation of normal cells to cancer cells is associated with upregulation of Sp1, Sp3, and Sp4, which are highly expressed in cancer cells and tumors. Sp1 is a negative prognostic factor for pancreatic, colon, glioma, gastric, breast, prostate, and lung cancer patients. Functional studies also demonstrate that Sp TFs regulate genes responsible for cancer cell growth, survival, migration/invasion, inflammation and drug resistance, and Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 are also nononcogene addiction (NOA) genes and important drug targets. The mechanisms of drug-induced downregulation of Sp TFs and pro-oncogenic Sp-regulated genes are complex and include ROS-dependent epigenetic pathways that initially decrease expression of the oncogene cMyc. Many compounds such as curcumin, aspirin, and metformin that are active in cancer prevention also exhibit chemotherapeutic activity and these compounds downregulate Sp TFs in cancer cell lines and tumors. The effects of these compounds on downregulation of Sp TFs in normal cells and the contribution of this response to their chemopreventive activity have not yet been determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-381
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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