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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2011, Article ID 693424, 10 pages
Review Article

From Smoking to Cancers: Novel Targets to Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

1Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Taipei Medical University, Taipei 110, Taiwan
2Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Shuang Ho Hospital, Taipei 235, Taiwan
3Department of Laboratory Medicine, Taipei Medical University Hospital, Taipei 110, Taiwan
4Center of Excellence for Cancer Research, Taipei Medical University, Taipei 110, Taiwan

Received 14 December 2010; Revised 18 February 2011; Accepted 17 March 2011

Academic Editor: Sushant Kachhap

Copyright © 2011 Chia-Hwa Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cigarette smoking bears a strong etiological association with many neovascularization-related diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Cigarette smoke is a complex mixture of many compounds, including nicotine, which is the major active and addictive component of tobacco. Nicotine and its specific metabolized carcinogens directly bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) on cell membranes and trigger the nAChR signal cascade. The nAChRs were originally thought to be ligand-gated ion channels that modulate physiological processes ranging from neurotransmission to cancer signaling. For several decades, the nAChRs served as a prototypic molecule for neurotransmitter receptors; however, they are now important therapeutic targets for various diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, schizophrenia, and even cancer. This paper describes recent advances in our understanding of the assembly, activity, and biological functions of nicotinic receptors, as well as developments in the therapeutic application of nicotinic receptor ligands.