Scientists have linked a treatment-induced growth factor to cancer metastasis in a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center team report in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation that radiation and chemotherapy increase circulating levels of the growth factor TGF-beta, circulating cancer cells, and tumor metastases.
The study also found that blocking TGF-beta in the model prevented tumor metastases, suggesting that TGF-beta inhibitors may be clinically useful in combination with primary therapies.
Radiation therapy and the chemotherapeutic agents doxorubicin and docetaxel all increased TGF-beta levels and accelerated metastasis, an effect that was blocked by neutralizing antibodies directed against TGF-beta.
The team is currently assessing TGF-beta levels in the serum of patients with breast cancer who are being treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy to shrink the tumor prior to surgery.