Ghrelin was originally isolated from the stomach mucosa and functions as the ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR). Ghrelin functions to modulate hormone secretion, energy balance, gastric acid release, appetite, gastric motility, insulin secretion and the turnover of gastric and intestinal mucosa. The local production of ghrelin and GHSR has been observed in many tissues including the kidney, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, endocrine pancreas and placenta. Ghrelin induces cancer cell proliferation through the GHS-R/Ras/PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis. Furthermore, ghrelin also promots oral cancer proliferation via modulation of GLUT1 expression. Ghrelin promotes cell migration and invasion by GHSR/PI3K/Akt signaling pathway that the mechanism is proven to be blocked by the ghrelin receptor antagonist. Furthermore, ghrelin is reported to induce cell migration via regulating GHSR/CaMKII/AMPK/NF-κB signaling pathway. Ghrelin plays an important role in several key processes of cancer progression, including cell proliferation, migration and invasion, the role of ghrelin in promoting or inhibiting cancer progression is still unclear.


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