K+ Channels form the largest family among ion channels. Besides regulating many physiological functions, K+
channels, being aberrantly expressed in different types of tumors, affect several hallmarks of cancer. In cancer cells, K+
channel activity regulates cell proliferation, resistance to apoptotic cell death, tumor angiogenesis, invasiveness and metastatic
spread. Moreover, being expressed in cells of the tumor microenvironment, K+ channels can also modulate the
immune/inflammatory response which contributes to drive cancer establishment and progression. After almost 30 years of
studies, some K+ channels are emerging as novel cancer biomarkers, to be employed to stratify patients for either prognostic
or predictive purposes. Moreover, it is not remote the time in which it will be possible to target specific K+ channels in
cancer for therapeutic purposes. One hindrance for applying a K+ channel-based therapy to cancer is the fact that K+ channel
blockers can cause side effects, which often overlap with, but can mask, benefits. We here show some strategies to
overcome harmful side effects caused by blocking K+ channels. Once taken into account these strategies, K+ channels may
represent suitable and easily accessible cancer biomarkers and targets for therapy. The relevant patents related to K+ channels
and cancer are discussed.
Cancer biomarkers, cancer therapy, hallmarks of cancer, ion channel pharmacology, K+ channels, KV 11.1
Department of Experimental Pathology and Oncology, University of Firenze, Viale G.B. Morgagni, 50, 50134 Firenze, Italy.