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Tumor Suppressors Having Oncogenic Functions: The Double Agents

Neerajana Datta, Shrabastee Chakraborty, Malini Basu, Mrinal K. Ghosh

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Cancer progression involves multiple genetic and epigenetic events, which involve gain-of-functions of oncogenes and loss-of-functions of tumor suppressor genes. Classical tumor suppressor genes are recessive in nature, anti-proliferative, and frequently found inactivated or mutated in cancers. However, extensive research over the last few years have elucidated that certain tumor suppressor genes do not conform to these standard definitions and might act as “double agents”, playing contrasting roles in vivo in cells, where either due to haploinsufficiency, epigenetic hypermethylation, or due to involvement with multiple genetic and oncogenic events, they play an enhanced proliferative role and facilitate the pathogenesis of cancer. This review discusses and highlights some of these exceptions; the genetic events, cellular contexts, and mechanisms by which four important tumor suppressors—pRb, PTEN, FOXO, and PML display their oncogenic potentials and pro-survival traits in cancer.