Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK-STAT) signaling mediates almost all immune regulatory processes, including those that are involved in tumor cell recognition and tumor-driven immune escape. Antitumor immune responses are largely driven by STAT1 and STAT2 induction of type I and II interferons (IFNs) and the downstream programs IFNs potentiate. Conversely, STAT3 has been widely linked to cancer cell survival, immunosuppression, and sustained inflammation in the tumor microenvironment. The discovery of JAK-STAT cross-regulatory mechanisms, post-translational control, and non-canonical signal transduction has added a new level of complexity to JAK-STAT governance over tumor initiation and progression. Endeavors to better understand the vast effects of JAK-STAT signaling on antitumor immunity have unearthed a wide range of targets, including oncogenes, miRNAs, and other co-regulatory factors, which direct specific phenotypical outcomes subsequent to JAK-STAT stimulation. Yet, the rapidly expanding field of therapeutic developments aimed to resolve JAK-STAT aberrations commonly reported in a multitude of cancers has been marred by off-target effects. Here, we discuss JAK-STAT biology in the context of immunity and cancer, the consequences of pathway perturbations and current therapeutic interventions, to provide insight and consideration for future targeting innovations.
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