Ten Dijke is a professor of molecular cell biology at Leiden University Medical Center. His face is beaming as he speaks about his favourite protein: “TGF-β – which is short for transforming growth factor beta – is a multifunctional regulator that is produced by many different cell types. It mediates tissue invasion and metastasis of cancer cells, tumour vascularization, immune suppression, and therapy resistance.
But interfering with TGF-β signalling is not straightforward because the protein plays a key role in normal cell growth and function as well. It can even act as a tumour suppressor. Manipulating it would likely cause serious side effects. Ten Dijke’s research group have set themselves the goal to discover ways to selectively interfere with the cancer-promoting effects of TGF-β, while leaving its tumour suppressive effects intact. They are combining detailed insights into the biology of the TGF-β pathway with the latest chemical technologies to manipulate specific elements of the dynamic signalling processes.
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