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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2016, Article ID 9650481, 9 pages
Review Article

The Oncogenic Functions of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

Center of Cell biology and Cancer Research, Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208, USA

Received 1 September 2015; Revised 5 November 2015; Accepted 16 November 2015

Academic Editor: Kalpesh Jani

Copyright © 2016 Yue Zhao. 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.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are ion channels that are expressed in the cell membrane of all mammalian cells, including cancer cells. Recent findings suggest that nAChRs not only mediate nicotine addiction in the brain but also contribute to the development and progression of cancers directly induced by nicotine and its derived carcinogenic nitrosamines whereas deregulation of the nAChRs is observed in many cancers, and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) indicate that SNPs nAChRs associate with risks of lung cancers and nicotine addiction. Emerging evidences suggest nAChRs are posited at the central regulatory loops of numerous cell growth and prosurvival signal pathways and also mediate the synthesis and release of stimulatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters induced by their agonists. Thus nAChRs mediated cell signaling plays an important role in stimulating the growth and angiogenic and neurogenic factors and mediating oncogenic signal transduction during cancer development in a cell type specific manner. In this review, we provide an integrated view of nAChRs signaling in cancer, heightening on the oncogenic properties of nAChRs that may be targeted for cancer treatment.