Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a secreted multifunctional cytokine that signals via plasma membrane TGF-β type I and type II receptors and intercellular SMAD transcriptional effectors. Aberrant inter- and intracellular TGF-β signaling can contribute to cancer progression. In normal cells and early stages of cancer, TGF-β can stimulate epithelial growth arrest and elicit a tumor suppressor function. However, in late stages of cancer, when the cytostatic effects of TGF-β in cancer cells are blocked, TGF-β signaling can act as tumor promoter by its ability to stimulate epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of cancer cells, by stimulating angiogenesis, and by promoting evasion of immune responses. In this review, we will discuss the rationale and challenges of targeting TGF-β signaling in cancer and summarize the clinical status of TGF-β signaling inhibitors that interfere with TGF−β bioavailability, TGF-β/receptor interaction, or TGF-β receptor kinase function. Moreover, we will discuss targeting of TGF-β signaling modulators and downstream effectors as well as alternative approaches by using promising technologies that may lead to entirely new classes of drugs.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited