Cancers of the digestive tract are among the most prevalent types of cancer. These types of cancers are often diagnosed at a late stage, which results in a poor prognosis. Currently, many biomedical studies focus on the role of ion channels, in particular transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, in cancer pathophysiology. TRP channels show mostly non-selective permeability to monovalent and divalent cations. TRP channels are often dysregulated in digestive tract cancers, which can result in alterations of cancer hallmark functions, such as enhanced proliferation, migration, invasion and the inability to induce apoptosis. Therefore, TRP channels could serve as potential diagnostic biomarkers. Moreover, TRP channels are mostly expressed on the cell surface and ion channel targeting drugs do not need to enter the cell, making them attractive candidate drug targets. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about TRP channels in connection to digestive tract cancers (oral cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, gastric cancer and colorectal cancer) and give an outlook on the potential of TRP channels as cancer biomarkers or therapeutic targets.
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