Development requires the careful orchestration of several biological events in order to create any structure and, eventually, to build an entire organism. On the other hand, the fate transformation of terminally differentiated cells is a consequence of erroneous development, and ultimately leads to cancer. In this review, we elaborate how development and cancer share several biological processes, including molecular controls. Transcription factors (TF) are at the helm of both these processes, among many others, and are evolutionarily conserved, ranging from yeast to humans. Here, we discuss four families of TFs that play a pivotal role and have been studied extensively in both embryonic development and cancer—high mobility group box (HMG), GATA, paired box (PAX) and basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) in the context of their role in development, cancer, and their conservation across several species. Finally, we review TFs as possible therapeutic targets for cancer and reflect on the importance of natural resistance against cancer in certain organisms, yielding knowledge regarding TF function and cancer biology.
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