Targeting janus kinases and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 to treat inflammation, fibrosis, and cancer: Rationale, progress, and caution

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9 Scopus citations


Before it was molecularly cloned in 1994, acute-phase response factor or signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)3 was the focus of intense research into understanding the mammalian response to injury, particularly the acute-phase response. Although known to be essential for liver production of acute-phase reactant proteins, many of which augment innate immune responses, molecular cloning of acute-phase response factor or STAT3 and the research this enabled helped establish the central function of Janus kinase (JAK) family members in cytokine signaling and identified a multitude of cytokines and peptide hormones, beyond interleukin- 6 and its family members, that activate JAKs and STAT3, as well as numerous new programs that their activation drives. Many, like the acute-phase response, are adaptive, whereas several are maladaptive and lead to chronic inflammation and adverse consequences, such as cachexia, fibrosis, organ dysfunction, and cancer. Molecular cloning of STAT3 also enabled the identification of other noncanonical roles for STAT3 in normal physiology, including its contribution to the function of the electron transport chain and oxidative phosphorylation, its basal and stress-related adaptive functions in mitochondria, its function as a scaffold in inflammation-enhanced platelet activation, and its contributions to endothelial permeability and calcium efflux from endoplasmic reticulum. In this review, we will summarize the molecular and cellular biology of JAK/STAT3 signaling and its functions under basal and stress conditions, which are adaptive, and then review maladaptive JAK/STAT3 signaling in animals and humans that lead to disease, as well as recent attempts to modulate them to treat these diseases. In addition, we will discuss how consideration of the noncanonical and stress-related functions of STAT3 cannot be ignored in efforts to target the canonical functions of STAT3, if the goal is to develop drugs that are not only effective but safe. Significance Statement——Key biological functions of Janus kinase (JAK)/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)3 signaling can be delineated into two broad categories: those essential for normal cell and organ development and those activated in response to stress that are adaptive. Persistent or dysregulated JAK/STAT3 signaling, however, is maladaptive and contributes to many diseases, including diseases characterized by chronic inflammation and fibrosis, and cancer. A comprehensive understanding of JAK/STAT3 signaling in normal development, and in adaptive and maladaptive responses to stress, is essential for the continued development of safe and effective therapies that target this signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-526
Number of pages41
JournalPharmacological Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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