, Volume 28, Issue 1-2, pp 5-14
Date: 21 Jan 2009

The cytoskeleton and cancer

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Abstract

Cancer is a disease in which many of the characteristics of normal cell behavior are lost or perturbed. Uncontrolled cell proliferation and inappropriate cell survival are common features of all cancers, but in addition defects in cellular morphogenesis that lead to tissue disruption, the acquisition of inappropriate migratory and invasive characteristics and the generation of genomic instability through defects in mitosis also accompany progression of the disease. This volume is focused on the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons, key players that underpin these cellular processes. Actin and tubulin form highly versatile, dynamic polymers that are capable of organizing cytoplasmic organelles and intracellular compartments, defining cell polarity and generating both pushing and contractile forces. In the cell cycle, these two cytoskeletal structures drive chromosomal separation and cell division. During morphogenesis, they determine cell shape and polarity, and promote stable cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesions through their interactions with cadherins and integrins, respectively. Finally, during cell migration they generate protrusive forces at the front and retraction forces at the rear. These are all aspects of cell behavior than often go awry in cancer. This volume brings together those interested in understanding the contribution of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons to the cell biology of cancer.