Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a tumor marker for the clinical management of colorectal cancer (CRC). The elevated blood levels of CEA are associated with metastasis and poor prognosis in CRC. There is mounting evidence that CEA enhances the metastatic potential of cancer cells. CEA increases the ability of weakly metastatic CRC to colonize the liver and to develop spontaneous hematogeneous liver and lung metastases. CEA expression has also been related with resistance to cytotoxic chemotherapy and to anoikis, a form of apoptosis caused by detachment from cell matrix. Yet the mechanism of CEA mediated metastasis is only partially understood. The TGF-β (transforming growth factor beta) signaling pathway contributes to tumorigenesis by controlling several biological processes, including cell proliferation, differentiation, migration and apoptosis. It has been reported that TGF-β regulates CEA transcription and secretion, however, little is known about the effects of CEA on TGF-β signaling. Aims: Based on the above facts, we focused on the influence of CEA on the TGF-β signaling in both normal cells and colorectal cancer cells. Results: Our preliminary data showed that CEA directly interacted with TGF-β receptors. Overexpression of CEA blocked TGF-β induced SMAD3 phosphorylation, SMAD3 translocation to nuclear and the downregulation of c-myc transcription. Targeting CEA with anti-CEA antibody rescued TGF-β response in CRC cell lines with elevated CEA expression, thereby restoring the inhibitory effects of TGF-β on the proliferation of these cancer cells. Finally, in animal experiment, we found that CEA enhanced survival of colorectal cancer cell in both local colonization and liver metastasis. Conclusion: Since CEA is a well-characterized tumor-associated antigen that is frequently overexpressed in tumors, specific antibodies targeting CEA have been developed as a novel therapeutic approach for treatment of tumors expressing CEA on their surface. Based on our study, it may be helpful to combine CEA antibody and TGF-β to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and metastasis in some cases.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2010;70(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 1491.