Background: Angiogenesis has become an attractive target for cancer therapy. However, despite the initial success of anti-VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor) therapies, the overall survival appears only modestly improved and resistance to therapy often develops. Other anti-angiogenic targets are thus urgently needed. The predominant expression of the type I BMP (bone morphogenetic protein) receptor ALK1 (activin receptor-like kinase 1) in endothelial cells makes it an attractive target, and phase I/II trials are currently being conducted. ALK1 binds with strong affinity to two ligands that belong to the TGF-ß family, BMP9 and BMP10. In the present work, we addressed their specific roles in tumor angiogenesis, cancer development and metastasis in a mammary cancer model.
Methods: For this, we used knockout (KO) mice for BMP9 (constitutive Gdf2-deficient), for BMP10 (inducible Bmp10-deficient) and double KO mice (Gdf2 and Bmp10) in a syngeneic immunocompetent orthotopic mouse model of spontaneous metastatic breast cancer (E0771).
Results: Our studies demonstrate a specific role for BMP9 in the E0771 mammary carcinoma model. Gdf2 deletion increased tumor growth while inhibiting vessel maturation and tumor perfusion. Gdf2 deletion also increased the number and the mean size of lung metastases. On the other hand, Bmp10 deletion did not significantly affect the E0771 mammary model and the double deletion (Gdf2 and Bmp10) did not lead to a stronger phenotype than the single Gdf2 deletion.
Conclusions: Altogether, our data show that in a tumor environment BMP9 and BMP10 play different roles and thus blocking their shared receptor ALK1 is maybe not appropriate. Indeed, BMP9, but not BMP10, acts as a quiescence factor on tumor growth, lung metastasis and vessel normalization. Our results also support that activating rather than blocking the BMP9 pathway could be a new strategy for tumor vessel normalization in order to treat breast cancer.
Keywords: BMP10; BMP9; E0771; Mammary tumor; Metastasis; Tumor angiogenesis.