Role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in carcinogenesis and potential as a drug target. Academic Article uri icon


  • The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is highly expressed in multiple organs and tissues, and there is increasing evidence that the AHR plays an important role in cellular homeostasis and disease. The AHR is expressed in multiple tumor types, in cancer cell lines, and in tumors from animal models, and the function of the AHR has been determined by RNA interference, overexpression, and inhibition studies. With few exceptions, knockdown of the AHR resulted in decreased proliferation and/or invasion and migration of cancer cell lines, and in vivo studies in mice overexpressing the constitutively active AHR exhibited enhanced stomach and liver cancers, suggesting a pro-oncogenic role for the AHR. In contrast, loss of the AHR in transgenic mice that spontaneously develop colonic tumors and in carcinogen-induced liver tumors resulted in increased carcinogenesis, suggesting that the receptor may exhibit antitumorigenic activity prior to tumor formation. AHR ligands also either enhanced or inhibited tumorigenesis, and these effects were highly tumor specific, demonstrating that selective AHR modulators that exhibit agonist or antagonist activities represent an important new class of anticancer agents that can be directed against multiple tumors.

published proceedings

  • Toxicol Sci

altmetric score

  • 11.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Safe, S., Lee, S., & Jin, U.

citation count

  • 205

complete list of authors

  • Safe, Stephen||Lee, Syng-Ook||Jin, Un-Ho

publication date

  • September 2013