Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (NRF2), a transcription factor, is a master regulator of an array of genes related to oxidative and electrophilic stress that promote and maintain redox homeostasis. NRF2 function is well studied in in vitro, animal and general physiology models. However, emerging data has uncovered novel functionality of this transcription factor in human diseases such as cancer, autism, anxiety disorders and diabetes. A key finding in these emerging roles has been its constitutive upregulation in multiple cancers promoting pro-survival phenotypes. The survivability pathways in these studies were mostly explained by classical NRF2 activation involving KEAP-1 relief and transcriptional induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) neutralizing and cytoprotective drug-metabolizing enzymes (phase I, II, III and 0). Further, NRF2 status and activation is associated with lowered cancer therapeutic efficacy and the eventual emergence of therapeutic resistance. Interestingly, we and others have provided further evidence of direct NRF2 regulation of anticancer drug targets like receptor tyrosine kinases and DNA damage and repair proteins and kinases with implications for therapy outcome. This novel finding demonstrates a renewed role of NRF2 as a key modulatory factor informing anticancer therapeutic outcomes, which extends beyond its described classical role as a ROS regulator. This review will provide a knowledge base for these emerging roles of NRF2 in anticancer therapies involving feedback and feed forward models and will consolidate and present such findings in a systematic manner. This places NRF2 as a key determinant of action, effectiveness and resistance to anticancer therapy.
- Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2
- Drug resistance
- Receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor
- DNA damage and repair response
- Targeted therapy
- Anticancer therapeutics