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Diverging roles for ZEB1 in cancer

DISCOVERIES (ISSN 2359-7232), 2018, October-December issue


Madany M, Thomas T, Edwards LA. he Curious Case of ZEB1. Discoveries 2018, 6(4): e86. DOI: 10.15190/d.2018.7

Submitted: December 17; Revised: December 31st, 2018; Accepted: December 31st, 2018; Published: December 31st, 2018; 

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The Curious Case of ZEB1

Mecca Madany (1), Tom Thomas (2), Lincoln A. Edwards (3, *)

(1) Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA;
(2) Department of Pathology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA, USA;
(3) Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY, USA;

*Corresponding author: Lincoln A. Edwards, PhD, Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medicine, 413 E 69th St, New York, NY, USA; Email: lae2011@med.cornell.edu


The Zinc Finger E-box binding homeobox (ZEB1/TCF8 or DeltaEF1) is at the forefront of transcription factors involved in controlling epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMT). Essentially, EMT allows for the reorganization of epithelial cells to become migratory cells with a mesenchymal phenotype.  In addition to ZEB1 being involved in embryonic development, ZEB1 has also been linked to processes involving micro-RNAs, long non-coding RNAs and stem cells. In recent years there has been an accumulation of evidence with regard to ZEB1 in various cancers. Although increased ZEB1 expression has largely been associated with EMT, cancer invasion, and tumorigenicity, there have been some episodic reports that have gone against the traditional reporting of the role of ZEB1. Indicating that the function of ZEB1 and the mechanisms by which ZEB1 facilitates its activities is more complex than was once appreciated. This complexity is further exacerbated by the notion that ZEB1 can act not only as a transcriptional repressor but a transcriptional activator as well. This review seeks to shed light on the complexity of ZEB1 with respect to cancer.

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