Feedback regulation in cell signalling: Lessons for cancer therapeutics

Lan K Nguyen, Boris N Kholodenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The notion of feedback is fundamental for understanding signal transduction networks. Feedback loops attenuate or amplify signals, change the network dynamics and modify the input-output relationships between the signal and the target. Negative feedback provides robustness to noise and adaptation to perturbations, but as a double-edged sword can prevent effective pathway inhibition by a drug. Positive feedback brings about switch-like network responses and can convert analog input signals into digital outputs, triggering cell fate decisions and phenotypic changes. We show how a multitude of protein-protein interactions creates hidden feedback loops in signal transduction cascades. Drug treatments that interfere with feedback regulation can cause unexpected adverse effects. Combinatorial molecular interactions generated by pathway crosstalk and feedback loops often bypass the block caused by targeted therapies against oncogenic mutated kinases. We discuss mechanisms of drug resistance caused by network adaptations and suggest that development of effective drug combinations requires understanding of how feedback loops modulate drug responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • feedback regulation
  • suystems stability
  • mathematical modelling
  • network analysis
  • drug resistance
  • signal transduction
  • network dynamics

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