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Transl Oncol. 2009 Aug 18;2(3):174-83.

Preclinical efficacy of cystatin C to target the oncogenic activity of transforming growth factor Beta in breast cancer.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


We previously identified cystatin C (CystC) as a novel antagonist of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling in normal and malignant cells. However, whether the anti-TGF-beta activities of CystC can be translated to preclinical animal models of breast cancer growth and metastasis remains unproven. Assessing the preclinical efficacy of CystC was accomplished using metastatic 4T1 breast cancer cells, whose oncogenic responses to TGF-beta were inhibited both in vitro and in vivo. Indeed, we observed CystC to prevent TGF-beta from stimulating the growth and pulmonary metastasis of 4T1 tumors in mice in part by reducing the extent of Smad2, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 phosphorylation present in 4T1 tumors. We also found CystC to significantly antagonize angiogenesis in developing 4T1 tumors, suggesting a novel role for CystC in uncoupling TGF-beta signaling in endothelial cells (ECs). Accordingly, CystC dramatically reduced murine and human EC responsiveness to TGF-beta, including their ability to regulate the expression of 1) TGF-beta signaling components, 2) inhibitor of differentiation (ID) family members, and 3) matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors (TIMPs) and to undergo cell invasion and angiogenic sprouting stimulated by TGF-beta. Importantly, CystC prevented TGF-beta from stimulating vessel development in Matrigel plugs implanted into genetically normal mice. Collectively, our findings provide the first preclinical evidence that CystC is efficacious in preventing breast cancer progression and angiogenesis stimulated by the oncogenic TGF-beta signaling system and suggest that CystC-based chemotherapeutics possesses translational efficacy to one day treat and improve the clinical course of late-stage breast cancers.


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