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The Mysteries of TGF-Beta


In breast cancer, the TGF-beta signaling pathway can act as both a tumor suppressor and a tumor promoter, and a new study in the journal Oncogene details how and when, reports Garth Sundem at Science2.0. "Basically, a tumor hijacks an embryonic program and turns it back on," senior author Heide Ford tells Sundem. As embryos grow, they rely on a transcription factor called SIX1 to proliferate their cells quickly, and turn off SIX1 as adults. But the new study shows that some breast cancers turn SIX1 back on, turning TGF-beta from a tumor suppressor to a tumor promoter, Sundem says. "In this case, SIX1's microRNAs attach to and mute the section of TGF-beta that stops cell growth," he adds. "With TGF-beta silenced, the signal does nothing to stop cell growth, and instead encourages these cells to migrate into new tissues. Turning on SIX1 and its associated microRNAs is like removing the speed governor from a reckless teenager's Mustang convertible."

Ford says this means a high level of SIX1 expression is a signal that a breast tumor is using TGF-beta to proliferate, and those patients could then take TGF-beta inhibitors as part of their treatment.

The Scan

Push Toward Approval

The Wall Street Journal reports the US Food and Drug Administration is under pressure to grant full approval to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Deer Exposure

About 40 percent of deer in a handful of US states carry antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, according to Nature News.

Millions But Not Enough

NPR reports the US is set to send 110 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad, but that billions are needed.

PNAS Papers on CRISPR-Edited Cancer Models, Multiple Sclerosis Neuroinflammation, Parasitic Wasps

In PNAS this week: gene-editing approach for developing cancer models, role of extracellular proteins in multiple sclerosis, and more.