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Cancers  2013 

Leptin’s Pro-Angiogenic Signature in Breast Cancer

DOI: 10.3390/cancers5031140

Keywords: leptin, breast cancer, tumor angiogenesis, Notch, IL-1, VEGF, VEGFR2, NILCO, leptin peptide receptor antagonist

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Obesity is linked to increased incidence of breast cancer. The precise causes and mechanisms of these morbid relationships are unknown. Contradictory data on leptin angiogenic actions have been published. However, accumulating evidence would suggest that leptin’s pro-angiogenic effects in cancer play an essential role in the disease. Leptin, the main adipokine secreted by adipose tissue, is also abnormally expressed together with its receptor (OB-R) by breast cancer cells. Leptin induces proliferation and angiogenic differentiation of endothelial cells upregulates VEGF/VEGFR2 and transactivates VEGFR2 independent of VEGF. Leptin induces two angiogenic factors: IL-1 and Notch that can increase VEGF expression. Additionally, leptin induces the secretion and synthesis of proteases and adhesion molecules needed for the development of angiogenesis. Leptin’s paracrine actions can further affect stromal cells and tumor associated macrophages, which express OB-R and secrete VEGF and IL-1, respectively. A complex crosstalk between leptin, Notch and IL-1 (NILCO) that induces VEGF/VEGFR2 is found in breast cancer. Leptin actions in tumor angiogenesis could amplify, be redundant and/or compensatory to VEGF signaling. Current failure of breast cancer anti-angiogenic therapies emphasizes the necessity of targeting the contribution of other pro-angiogenic factors in breast cancer. Leptin’s impact on tumor angiogenesis could be a novel target for breast cancer, especially in obese patients. However, more research is needed to establish the importance of leptin in tumor angiogenesis. This review is focused on updated information on how leptin could contribute to tumor angiogenesis.


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