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Greater than half of cancer patients experience radiation therapy, for both radical and palliative objectives. It is well known that researches on radiation response mechanisms are conducive to improve the efficacy of cancer radiotherapy. p21 was initially identified as a widespread inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases, transcriptionally modulated by p53 and a marker of cellular senescence. It was once considered that p21 acts as a tumour suppressor mainly to restrain cell cycle progression, thereby resulting in growth suppression. With the deepening researches on p21, p21 has been found to regulate radiation responses via participating in multiple cellular processes, including cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, DNA repair, senescence and autophagy. Hence, a comprehensive summary of the p21's functions in radiation response will provide a new perspective for radiotherapy against cancer. We summarize the recent pertinent literature from various electronic databases, including PubMed and analyzed several datasets from Gene Expression Omnibus database. This review discusses how p21 influences the effect of cancer radiotherapy via involving in multiple signaling pathways and expounds the feasibility, barrier and risks of using p21 as a biomarker as well as a therapeutic target of radiotherapy. p21's complicated and important functions in cancer radiotherapy make it a promising therapeutic target. Besides, more thorough insights of p21 are needed to make it a safe therapeutic target.


Yanbei Kuang, Jian Kang, Hongbin Li, Bingtao Liu, Xueshan Zhao, Linying Li, Xiaodong Jin, Qiang Li. Multiple functions of p21 in cancer radiotherapy. Journal of cancer research and clinical oncology. 2021 Apr;147(4):987-1006

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PMID: 33547489

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