Integrins represent a large family of cell receptors that mediate adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM), thereby modulating a variety of cellular functions that are required for proliferation, migration, malignant conversion and invasiveness. During tumorigenesis the conversion of a tumor cell from sessile, stationary phenotype to an invasive phenotype requires the ability of tumor cells to interact with their environment in order to transduce signals from the ECM into the cells. Hence, there is increasing evidence that changes in the composition, topography and tension of tumor matrix can be sensed by integrin receptors, leading to the regulation of intracellular signalling events which subsequently help to fuel cancer progression. The fact that intracellular signals perceived from integrin ligand binding impact on almost all steps of tumor progression, including tumor cell proliferation, survival, metastatic dissemination and colonization of a metastatic niche, renders integrins as ideal candidates for the development of therapeutic agents. In this review we summarize the role of integrins in cancer with the special focus on cancer therapies and the recent progress that has been made in the understanding of “integrin-induced tension in cancer”. Finally, we conclude with clinical evidence for the role of integrin-mediated mechanotransduction in the development of therapy-resistant tumors.
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