Targeting transforming growth factor-beta signaling

Curr Opin Oncol. 2007 Nov;19(6):579-85. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e3282f0ad0e.


Purpose of review: Most cancers are characterized by excessive transforming growth factor-beta production by tumors, which can promote tumor growth and mediate epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Transforming growth factor-beta also has the ability to overproduce extracellular matrix components in response to injury and other stimuli. There are many strategies undergoing current evaluation for inhibiting the deleterious biological effects of transforming growth factor-beta by disrupting its signaling at various levels. The current review focuses on the recent advances made in this area, and the potential of these strategies in the clinical treatment of cancer and fibrosis.

Recent findings: Four main strategies used most recently for disrupting transforming growth factor-beta signaling are brought into focus in this review: inhibition or sequestration of the transforming growth factor-beta protein ligands, inhibition of transforming growth factor-beta receptor kinase activity, inhibition of SMAD signaling downstream of transforming growth factor-beta kinase activity and restoration of antitumor immunity upon transforming growth factor-beta inhibition. Various techniques currently used to employ these four strategies are discussed.

Summary: Several lines of evidence suggest that altered transforming growth factor-beta signaling contributes to tumor progression and metastasis as well as development of fibrosis. Accumulating data from preclinical and clinical studies indicate that antagonizing aberrant transforming growth factor-beta signaling is a promising novel therapeutic approach in cancer and fibrotic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Progression
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ligands
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta