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Cancer’s Jekyll and Hyde

June 27, 2013

When Hal Moses, M.D., and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic first described and purified a “transforming growth factor” in the early 1980s, they had no idea what they were about to unleash. Today, TGF-beta touches every part of cancer biology.

The TGF-beta signaling pathway regulates cell growth and proliferation and is altered in several cancer types. TGF-beta was first thought to be primarily an inhibitor of cell growth, and thus a tumor suppressor, but Moses showed it could also stimulate cell growth and aid metastasis under certain circumstances. Moses calls this dual nature the “Jekyll and Hyde of cancer.”

This finding opened up the field of tumor suppressor research.

At VICC, Moses and Robert Coffey, M.D., discovered that transforming growth factors were produced by normal epithelial cells, not just cancer cells as had been previously believed. Moses and Carlos Arteaga, M.D., showed that inhibition of TGF-beta prevented radiation-induced acceleration of metastasis in breast cancer in mice.