Hypoxia has been recognized as one of the fundamentally important features of solid tumors and plays a critical role in various cellular and physiologic events, including cell proliferation, survival, angiogenesis, immunosurveillance, metabolism, as well as tumor invasion and metastasis. These responses to hypoxia are at least partially orchestrated by activation of the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). HIF-1 is a key regulator of the response of mammalian cells to oxygen deprivation and plays critical roles in the adaptation of tumor cells to a hypoxic microenvironment. Hypoxia and overexpression of HIF-1 have been associated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy resistance, an increased risk of invasion and metastasis, and a poor clinical prognosis of solid tumors. The discovery of HIF-1 signaling has led to a rapidly increasing understanding of the complex mechanisms involved in tumor hypoxia and has helped greatly in screening novel anticancer agents. In this review, we will first introduce the cellular responses to hypoxia and HIF-1 signaling pathway in hypoxia, and then summarize the multifaceted role of hypoxia in the hallmarks of human cancers. J. Cell. Biochem. 107: 1053–1062, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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