The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 have emerged as pro-angiogenic hormones with important implications for cancer management. Endogenous circulating hormone levels may help stimulate cancer progression and limit the effectiveness of anticancer therapy, though clinical data remain inconclusive. The capacity of thyroid hormones to modulate angiogenesis is mediated through non-canonical mechanisms initiated at the cell surface receptor integrin αvβ3. This integrin is predominantly expressed on tumour cells, proliferating endothelial cells and tumour stroma-associated cells, emphasising its potential relevance in angiogenesis and tumour biology. Thyroid hormone/integrin αvβ3 signalling results in the activation of intracellular pathways that are commonly associated with angiogenesis and are mediated through classical pro-angiogenic molecules such as vascular endothelial growth factor. The naturally occurring T4 analogue tetrac blocks the pro-angiogenic actions of thyroid hormones at the integrin receptor, in addition to agonist-independent anti-angiogenic effects. Tetrac reduces endothelial cell proliferation, migration and tube formation through a reduction in the transcription of vascular growth factors/growth factor receptors, hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, pro-angiogenic cytokines and a number of other pro-angiogenic genes, while at the same time stimulating the expression of endogenous angiogenesis inhibitors. It further modulates vascular growth factor activity by disrupting the crosstalk between integrin αvβ3 and adjacent growth factor receptors. Moreover, tetrac disrupts thyroid hormone-stimulated tumour recruitment, differentiation and the pro-angiogenic signalling of tumour stroma-associated mesenchymal stem cells. Tetrac affects tumour-associated angiogenesis via multiple mechanisms and interferes with other cancer cell survival pathways. In conjunction with its low toxicity and high tissue selectivity, tetrac is a promising candidate for clinical application.
Keywords: angiogenesis; cancer; integrin αvβ3; tetrac; thyroid hormones.