Affiliation: INSERM U673, Molecular and Clinical Oncology of Human Solid Tumors, Hopital Saint Antoine, University Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, 75571 Paris Cedex12, France.
Bile acids, their physiology and metabolism, their role in carcinogenesis and other major human diseases are recently undergoing significant progress. Starting in 1999 when the orphan nuclear receptor FXR was shown to be specifically activated by bile acids, these compounds became part of the arsenal of ligands of the steriod hormone superfamily of nuclear receptors, including receptors of Vitamin D3, retinoids (RAR, RXR), and thyroid hormone. Another decisive discovery pointed later that the pregnane X-receptor (PXR) is activated by the endogenous toxic lithocholic acid, as well as several xenobiotics and drugs. Bile acids have recently emerged as key regulators of their own metabolism, and of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. They have important role as promoters of esophageal and colon cancers, cholangiocarcinoma, as well as new implications in breast cancer development and metastasis. This Review will emphasize novel aspects of bile acids, FXR and PXR as regulators of interfaces at cell proliferation and differentiation, cell death, survival, invasion, and metastasis during normal development and cancer progression. Signaling pathways controlled by bile acids will be presented and discussed in relation to their impact on gene expression. The biological and pharmacological significance of bile acids and their recently developed synthetic derivatives and conjugates, as well as new development in the design of FXR agonists and antagonists for clinical applications in cancer prevention and therapy, will be evaluated. This part includes advances in the utilization of bile acid transporters in drug resistance, therapeutic targeting and delivery of anticancer drugs, as well as therapeutic combinations using new bile acid derivatives, sequestrating agents and reabsorption inhibitors, and their limitations.