Understanding the Role of Notch in Osteosarcoma

  • Madonna M. McManus
  • Kurt R. Weiss
  • Dennis P. M. Hughes
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (volume 804)


The Notch pathway has been described as an oncogene in osteosarcoma, but the myriad functions of all the members of this complex signaling pathway, both in malignant cells and nonmalignant components of tumors, make it more difficult to define Notch as simply an oncogene or a tumor suppressor. The cell-autonomous behaviors caused by Notch pathway manipulation may vary between cell lines but can include changes in proliferation, migration, invasiveness, oxidative stress resistance, and expression of markers associated with stemness or tumor-initiating cells. Beyond these roles, Notch signaling also plays a vital role in regulating tumor angiogenesis and vasculogenesis, which are vital aspects of osteosarcoma growth and behavior in vivo. Further, osteosarcoma cells themselves express relatively low levels of Notch ligand, making it likely that nonmalignant cells, especially endothelial cells and pericytes, are the major source of Notch activation in osteosarcoma tumors in vivo and in patients. As a result, Notch pathway expression is not expected to be uniform across a tumor but likely to be highest in those areas immediately adjacent to blood vessels. Therapeutic targeting of the Notch pathway is likewise expected to be complicated. Most pharmacologic approaches thus far have focused on inhibition of gamma secretase, a protease of the presenilin complex. This enzyme, however, has numerous other target proteins that would be expected to affect osteosarcoma behavior, including CD44, the WNT/β-catenin pathway, and Her-4. In addition, Notch plays a vital role in tissue and organ homeostasis in numerous systems, and toxicities, especially GI intolerance, have limited the effectiveness of gamma secretase inhibitors. New approaches are in development, and the downstream targets of Notch pathway signaling also may turn out to be good targets for therapy. In summary, a full understanding of the complex functions of Notch in osteosarcoma is only now unfolding, and this deeper knowledge will help position the field to better utilize novel therapies as they are developed.


Osteosarcoma Notch DLL4 Jag1 Angiogenesis Metastasis Dormancy Cancer stem cells 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madonna M. McManus
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kurt R. Weiss
    • 3
  • Dennis P. M. Hughes
    • 4
  1. 1.The Children’s Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.The Children’s Cancer Hospital, University of Texas at MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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