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Breast Dis. 2008;29:91-103.

Emerging roles of nodal and Cripto-1: from embryogenesis to breast cancer progression.

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Children's Memorial Research Center, Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.


Breast carcinoma cells and embryonic progenitors similarly implement stem cell-associated signaling pathways to sustain continued growth and plasticity. Indeed, recent studies have implicated signaling pathways, including those associated with the Notch, and Transforming Growth Factor-Beta (TGF-beta) superfamilies, as instrumental to both embryological development and breast cancer progression. In particular, Nodal, an embryonic morphogen belonging to the TGF-beta superfamily, and its co-receptor, Cripto-1, are requisite to both embryogenesis and mammary gland maturation. Moreover, these developmental proteins have been shown to promote breast cancer progression. Here, we review the role of Nodal and its co-receptor Cripto-1 during development and we describe how this signaling pathway may be involved in breast cancer tumorigenesis. Moreover, we emphasize the potential utility of this signaling pathway as a novel target for the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer.

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