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Circadian rhythms are natural rhythms that widely exist in all creatures, and regulate the processes and physiological functions of various biochemical reactions. The circadian clock is critical for cancer occurrence and progression. Its function is regulated by metabolic activities, and the expression and transcription of various genes. This review summarizes the composition of the circadian clock; the biological basis for its function; its relationship with, and mechanisms in, cancer; its various functions in different cancers; the effects of anti-tumor treatment; and potential therapeutic targets. Research in this area is expected to advance understanding of circadian locomotor output cycles kaput (CLOCK) and brain and muscle ARNT-like protein 1 (BMAL1) in tumor diseases, and contribute to the development of new anti-tumor treatment strategies.

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Major roles of the circadian clock in cancer

Show Author's information Chen Huang1,*Chenliang Zhang2,*Yubin Cao3Jian Li4Feng Bi1 ( )
Department of Abdominal Oncology, Cancer Center and Laboratory of Molecular Targeted Therapy in Oncology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610000, China
Laboratory of Molecular Targeted Therapy in Oncology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610000, China
Department of Gastroenterology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610000, China
West China School of Medicine, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610000, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work.


Circadian rhythms are natural rhythms that widely exist in all creatures, and regulate the processes and physiological functions of various biochemical reactions. The circadian clock is critical for cancer occurrence and progression. Its function is regulated by metabolic activities, and the expression and transcription of various genes. This review summarizes the composition of the circadian clock; the biological basis for its function; its relationship with, and mechanisms in, cancer; its various functions in different cancers; the effects of anti-tumor treatment; and potential therapeutic targets. Research in this area is expected to advance understanding of circadian locomotor output cycles kaput (CLOCK) and brain and muscle ARNT-like protein 1 (BMAL1) in tumor diseases, and contribute to the development of new anti-tumor treatment strategies.

Keywords: Circadian clock, cancer, tumor therapy, oncology, BMAL1



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Publication history

Received: 08 August 2022
Accepted: 04 November 2022
Published: 12 January 2023
Issue date: January 2023


©2023 Cancer Biology & Medicine.



We thank Zeiwei Gu from the National Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics for kind help in producing the figures. We also thank Min Fan for her contribution in making the cover image.

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