Growth/differentiation factor-15: prostate cancer suppressor or promoter?

Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2012 Dec;15(4):320-8. doi: 10.1038/pcan.2012.6. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Deregulation of expression and function of cytokines belonging to the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family is often associated with various pathologies. For example, this cytokine family has been considered a promising target for cancer therapy. However, the detailed functions of several cytokines from the TGF-β family that could have a role in cancer progression and therapy remain unclear. One of these molecules is growth/differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), a divergent member of the TGF-β family. This stress-induced cytokine has been proposed to possess immunomodulatory functions and its high expression is often associated with cancer progression, including prostate cancer (PCa). However, studies clearly demonstrating the mechanisms for signal transduction and functions in cell interaction, cancer progression and therapy are still lacking. New GDF-15 roles have recently been identified for modulating osteoclast differentiation and for therapy for PCa bone metastases. Moreover, GDF-15 is as an abundant cytokine in seminal plasma with immunosuppressive properties. We discuss studies that focus on the regulation of GDF-15 expression and its role in tissue homeostasis, repair and the immune response with an emphasis on the role in PCa development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Bone Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms* / secondary
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 15* / genetics
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 15* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Male
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Osteoclasts / cytology
  • Osteoclasts / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • GDF15 protein, human
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 15
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta