A key signalling pathway that operates in mammary gland connective tissue cells helps to suppress the development of mammary tumours, a Nature paper suggests. The study is important because it helps tease apart the complex links between tumour microenvironment and cancer development.
It has been thought for some time that the connective tissue surrounding tumours - also known as the tumour microenvironment - is important for helping the tumour to grow and survive, but it was not clear how. Gustavo Leone and colleagues show that deletion of the tumour suppressor gene Pten in fibroblasts - connective tissue cells - of mammary glands leads to the accelerated development of mammary tumours in mice. Furthermore, tumour development goes hand in hand with other changes in the local cellular environment, such as increased blood vessel formation and immune cell infiltration.
Pten loss and related changes in gene expression can also be observed in the connective tissue of human breast tumours, suggesting that the signalling system operates in man as well as mouse. The team also highlights Pten's influence on a transcription factor called Ets2 as being critical for Ptenâ??s tumour suppressive functions in the connective tissue.
Gustavo Leone (The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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