There is substantial evidence to support the contention that the Smad portion of the TGF-beta signal transduction pathway provides an important tumor-suppressor function. Mutational loss of function of Smad pathway members have been associated with the development of human cancers and appear to be causative in selected rodent carcinogenesis models. TGF-beta also has multiple other actions that appear to be independent of the growth-inhibitory/tumor suppressor effects. The predominant effect of TGF-beta appears to be dependent on the context of the responding cell. Once transformation has occurred, TGF-beta effects may be detrimental and may actually promote tumor cell survival, invasion, and metastasis. Recent work suggests that these effects may involve TGF-beta regulation of COX-2 and other pathways that may contribute to tumor cell aggressiveness. In gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms by which TGF-beta may promote tumor progression, it is likely that new therapeutic strategies may be developed that preserve tumor-suppressor function of TGF-beta while inhibiting the tumor-promoting effects.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.