Cancer and Metastasis Reviews

, Volume 38, Issue 1–2, pp 237–257 | Cite as

Mucin glycoproteins block apoptosis; promote invasion, proliferation, and migration; and cause chemoresistance through diverse pathways in epithelial cancers

  • Ian S. Reynolds
  • Michael Fichtner
  • Deborah A. McNamara
  • Elaine W. Kay
  • Jochen H.M. Prehn
  • John P. BurkeEmail author


Overexpression of mucin glycoproteins has been demonstrated in many epithelial-derived cancers. The significance of this overexpression remains uncertain. The aim of this paper was to define the association of mucin glycoproteins with apoptosis, cell growth, invasion, migration, adhesion, and clonogenicity in vitro as well as tumor growth, tumorigenicity, and metastasis in vivo in epithelial-derived cancers by performing a systematic review of all published data. A systematic review of PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials was performed to identify all papers that evaluated the association between mucin glycoproteins with apoptosis, cell growth, invasion, migration, adhesion, and clonogenicity in vitro as well as tumor growth, tumorigenicity, and metastasis in vivo in epithelial-derived cancers. PRISMA guidelines were adhered to. Results of individual studies were extracted and pooled together based on the organ in which the cancer was derived from. The initial search revealed 2031 papers, of which 90 were deemed eligible for inclusion in the study. The studies included details on MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC13, and MUC16. The majority of studies evaluated MUC1. MUC1 overexpression was consistently associated with resistance to apoptosis and resistance to chemotherapy. There was also evidence that overexpression of MUC2, MUC4, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC13, and MUC16 conferred resistance to apoptosis in epithelial-derived cancers. The overexpression of mucin glycoproteins is associated with resistance to apoptosis in numerous epithelial cancers. They cause resistance through diverse signaling pathways. Targeting the expression of mucin glycoproteins represents a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of epithelial-derived cancers.


Mucin glycoproteins Epithelial cancer Chemoresistance Apoptosis 


Author contributions

Study concept and design—JPB; scientific guidance—EWK and JHMP; data collection—ISR; manuscript preparation—ISR and DAM; manuscript review—all authors.

Funding information

Funding for this project was received from the Beaumont Hospital Colorectal Research Trust.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Colorectal SurgeryBeaumont HospitalDublin 9Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Physiology & Medical PhysicsRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublin 2Ireland
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublin 2Ireland
  4. 4.Department of PathologyBeaumont HospitalDublin 9Ireland
  5. 5.Department of PathologyRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublin 2Ireland

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