Based at the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida, Cancer Ecology is a small research group led by David Basanta. We are mathematical modellers who work with biologists and clinicians, trying to understand the ecology of tumors and the evolutionary dynamics of cancer progression and resistance to treatment.

The role TGF-beta in tumour metastasis

As I am working on a project to study the role of TGF-beta in prostate tumour progression (see more on an older post), everything TGF-beta related catches my attention.

The Transforming Growth Factor Beta (or just TGFβ) are a family of proteins that control cell proliferation and differentiation. I hope that my friends at Vanderbilt will correct me if they don’t agree with the statement that an imbalance in TGFβ production and consumption could lead to uncontrolled growth and potentially to the beginning of a tumour.

Now, a group of researchers from New York and Barcelona led by Joan Massague have shown how TGFB plays also an important role by improving the chances of tumour cells originated in the breast to better to metastasise in the lung (although, curiously not in the bone). The research is reported in this week’s issue of Cell (as well as in the Spanish press for those of you that speak Spanish).

The research shows that TGFβ allows cells to depart the primary tumour and empowers to disrupt the walls of capillaries in the lung vastly improving their chances of establishing a new tumour colony.

Gatenby and Gillies: a microenvironmental model of carcinogenesis

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