The TGF-β pathway is under active consideration as a cancer drug target based on its capacity to promote cancer cell invasion and to create a protumorigenic microenvironment. However, the clinical application of TGF-β inhibitors remains uncertain as genetic studies show a tumor suppressor function of TGF-β in pancreatic cancer and other epithelial malignancies. Here, we used genetically engineered mouse models to investigate the therapeutic impact of global TGF-β inhibition in pancreatic cancer in relation to tumor stage, genetic profile, and concurrent chemotherapy. We found that αvβ6 integrin acted as a key upstream activator of TGF-β in evolving pancreatic cancers. In addition, TGF-β or αvβ6 blockade increased tumor cell proliferation and accelerated both early and later disease stages. These effects were dependent on the presence of Smad4, a central mediator of TGF-β signaling. Therefore, our findings indicate that avb6 and TGF-β act in a common tumor suppressor pathway whose pharmacologic inactivation promotes pancreatic cancer progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research