The tumor microenvironment is a vital feature of oncogenesis and tumor progression. There are several parallels between cancer cells and early developmental stem cells, including their plasticity and signaling mechanisms. In early fetal development, Nodal is expressed for endodermal and mesodermal differentiation. This expression has been shown reemerge in the setting of epithelial cancers, such as breast and melanoma. High Nodal expression correlates to an aggressive tumor grade in these malignancies. Nodal signal begins with its interaction with its coreceptor, Cripto-1, leading to activation of Smad2/Smad3 and ultimately downstream transcription and translation. Lefty is the natural inhibitor of Nodal and controls Nodal signaling during fetal development.However, cancer cells lack the presence of Lefty, thus leading to uncontrolled tumor growth. Given this understanding, inhibition of the Nodal pathway offers a new novel therapeutic target in oncology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research