Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 63, Issue 7–8, pp 755–759 | Cite as

The neurotrophic receptor TrkB: a drug target in anti-cancer therapy?

Visions & Reflections


Increasing evidence implies altered signaling through the neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase TrkB in promoting tumor formation and metastasis. TrkB, sometimes in conjunction with its primary ligand BDNF, is often overexpressed in a variety of human cancers, ranging from neuroblastomas to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas, in which it may allow tumor expansion and contribute to resistance to anti-tumor agents. In vitro, TrkB acts as a potent suppressor of anoikis (detachment-induced apoptosis), which is associated with the acquisition of an aggressive tumorigenic and metastatic phenotype in vivo. In view of its predicted contribution to tumorigenicity and metastasis in humans, TrkB corresponds to a potential drug target, and preclinical models have already been established. The encouraging results of pharmacological Trk inhibitors in tumor xenograft models suggest that TrkB inhibition may represent a promising novel anti-tumor therapeutic strategy. This hypothesis is currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Here, we will discuss the latest developments on TrkB in these contexts as well as highlight some critical questions that remain to be addressed for evaluating TrkB as a therapeutic target in cancer.


TrkB human tumors metastasis anoikis Trk inhibitors clinical trials xenograft models 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Molecular GeneticsThe Netherlands Cancer InstituteAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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