The transport of ions across the cell membranes plays a critical role in tumor cell functions, such as cell volume regulation, cell migration, cell cycle progression, cell proliferation and cell death. Functions that are critical for tumor cell survival as well as metastasis.
If tumor-relevant ion channels are upregulated by growth factors and hormones to the extent that a given ion channel is critically important for the survival of a tumor cell, it might be considered a target for treatment. However, only ion channels applicable to the suppression of tumor growth, which does not serve critically important functions in other cells (e.g. channels involved in cardiac repolarization), are relevant. Also, potential ion channel targets may be relevant for the proliferation and survival of cells other than tumor cells.
Several ion channels are currently being investigated as oncogenic or potential targets for anti-cancer drugs.