Roles for Growth Factors in Cancer Progression

Esther Witsch, Michael Sela, Yosef Yarden


Under physiological conditions, cells receive fate-determining signals from their tissue surroundings, primarily in the form of polypeptide growth factors. Integration of these extracellular signals underlies tissue homeostasis. Although departure from homeostasis and tumor initiation are instigated by oncogenic mutations rather than by growth factors, the latter are the major regulators of all subsequent steps of tumor progression, namely clonal expansion, invasion across tissue barriers, angiogenesis, and colonization of distant niches. Here, we discuss the relevant growth factor families, their roles in tumor biology, as well as the respective downstream signaling pathways. Importantly, cancer-associated activating mutations that impinge on these pathways often relieve, in part, the reliance of tumors on growth factors. On the other hand, growth factors are frequently involved in evolvement of resistance to therapeutic regimens, which extends the roles for polypeptide factors to very late phases of tumor progression and offers opportunities for cancer therapy.


  • Y. Yarden is the incumbent of the Harold and Zelda Goldenberg Professorial Chair. Our work is supported by research grants from the Goldhirsh Foundation, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (CA072981), the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the European Commission, the Israel Science Foundation, the German Research Foundation (DFG), Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, the Marc Rich Foundation for Education, Culture and Welfare, and the M. D. Moross Institute for Cancer Research.

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