Centrosomes and cancer: How cancer cells divide with too many centrosomes

Susana A. Godinho, Mijung Kwon, David Pellman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Precise control of centrosome number is crucial for bipolar spindle assembly and accurate transmission of genetic material to daughter cells. Failure to properly control centrosome number results in supernumerary centrosomes, which are frequently found in cancer cells. This presents a paradox: during mitosis, cells with more than two centrosomes are prone to multipolar mitoses and cell death, however, cancer cells possessing extra centrosomes usually divide successfully. One mechanism frequently utilized by cancer cells to escape death caused by multipolar mitoses is the clustering of supernumerary centrosomes into bipolar arrays. An understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which cancer cells can suppress multipolar mitoses is beginning to emerge. Here, we review what's currently known about centrosome clustering mechanisms and discuss potential strategies to target these mechanisms for the selective killing of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We apologize to the authors whose work was not discussed or cited owing to space constraints. We are grateful to N. Ganem, S. Buttery, K. Crasta, N. Chandhok and M. Thery for critical reading of the manuscript. Our work is supported by a Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia grant to S. Godinho, by a Susan Komen postdoctoral fellowship to M. Kwon, and by NIH grant GM083299 to D. Pellman. D.P. is an Investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


  • Cancer
  • Centrosomes
  • HSET
  • Mitosis
  • Multipolar
  • Tetraploidy


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