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J Pathol. 1999 Jan;187(1):82-90.

Genetic events and the role of TGF beta in epithelial tumour progression.

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Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Richmond, CA 94806, USA.


The mouse skin model of chemical carcinogenesis has been very well characterized with respect to epigenetic changes, which occur during tumour cell initiation, promotion and progression. The use of transgenic and gene knock-out mice has contributed greatly to knowledge in this area. The H-ras genetic locus has been shown to undergo multiple genetic changes, including mutagenic activation, amplification of the mutant gene, and loss of the normal allele. These different genetic events lead to thresholds of ras activity which contribute to different stages along the pathway to neoplasia. The genetic and epigenetic events which lead to tumour invasion and metastasis have been less well characterized than studies on tumour initiation and promotion, despite the fact that it is metastases which ultimately kill the animal/patient. In the mouse skin model, loss of p53 contributes to malignant conversion. Gene deletion of the INK4 locus is associated with transformation to a highly invasive spindle cell tumor phenotype. This spindle cell transformation can also be induced in vitro or in vivo by TGF beta 1, possible by synergizing with mutant H-ras. TGF beta can have both positive and negative effects on tumourigenesis, acting early as a tumour suppresser, but later as a stimulator of tumour invasion. It is this latter effect which may be clinically more significant, since many human tumours overexpress TGF beta, yet the majority still retain the intracellular signaling systems necessary for the cell to respond to this growth factor.

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