August 14, 2014

Growth factor blockade targets breast tumors

Inhibition of BMP growth factor signaling reduces breast tumor burden and metastasis.

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are cytokines/growth factors with differing roles in cancer. They are overexpressed in human breast cancers.

Investigators led by Philip Owens, Ph.D., and Hal Moses, M.D., blocked BMP signaling in a metastatic breast cancer mouse model using DMH1, a compound developed by Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., and Corey Hopkins, Ph.D. DMH1 works as a BMP antagonist.

The researchers found that the compound had anti-tumor effects by targeting not just the cancerous cells but also the microenvironment. The tumors shrank and no longer had a venous or lymphatic system that would enable metastasis. Connective tissue cells that make up the matrix surrounding the tumor were no longer cancer-promoting. The investigators also noted a tumor suppressive immune system response.

The findings, published in Oncogene, indicate that inhibiting BMP signaling is a promising method to target both the tumor and the microenvironment, and that drugs being developed at Vanderbilt may one day be useful as breast cancer therapeutics.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants CA085492, CA102162, CA068485), the Robert J. And Helen C. Kleberg Foundation and the T.J. Martell Foundation.

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