Several studies have shown that cell fate regulation during embryonic development and oncogenic transformation share common regulatory mechanisms and signaling pathways. Indeed, an embryonic gene member of the EGF-Cripto-1/FRL1/ Cryptic family, Cripto-1, has been implicated in embryogenesis and in carcinogenesis. Cripto-1 together with the TGF- ligand Nodal is a key regulator of embryonic development and is a marker of undifferentiated human and mouse embryonic stem cells. While Cripto-1 expression is very low in normal adult tissues, Cripto-1 is re-expressed at high levels in several different human tumors, modulating cancer cell proliferation, migration, epithelial-to- mesenchymal transition and stimulating tumor angiogenesis. Therefore, inhibition of Cripto-1 expression using blocking antibodies or antisense expression vectors might be a useful modality not only to target fully differentiated cancer cells but also to target a subpopulation of tumor cells with stem-like characteristics.
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