TGF-β acts as a suppressor of primary tumour initiation but has been implicated as a promoter of the later malignant stages. Here associations with risk of invasive breast cancer are assessed for SNPs tagging seventeen genes in the canonical TGF-β ALK5/SMADs 2&3 and ALK1/SMADs 1&5 signalling pathways: LTBP1, LTBP2, LTBP4, TGFB1, TGFB2, TGFB3, TGFBR1(ALK5), ALK1, TGFBR2, Endoglin, SMAD1, SMAD2, SMAD3, SMAD4, SMAD5, SMAD6 and SMAD72.
354 tag SNPs (minor allele frequency>0.05) were selected for genotyping in a staged study design using 6,703 cases and 6,840 controls from the SEARCH study. Significant associations were meta-analysed with data from the NCI Polish Breast Cancer Study (PBCS) (1,966 cases and 2,347 controls) and published data from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC).
Associations of three SNPs, tagging TGFB1 (rs1982073), TGFBR1 (rs10512263) and TGFBR2 (rs4522809) were detected in SEARCH; however associations became weaker in meta-analyses including data from PBCS and BCAC. Tumour sub-type analyses indicated that the TGFB1 rs1982073 association may be confined to increased risk of developing progesterone receptor negative (PR−) tumours (1.18 (95% CI 1.09-1.28), 4.1×10−5 (P value for heterogeneity of ORs by PR status = 2.3 × 10−4)). There was no evidence for breast cancer risk associations with SNPs in the endothelial-specific pathway utilising ALK1/SMADs 1&5 that promotes angiogenesis.
Common variation in the TGF-β ALK5/SMADs 2&3 signalling pathway, which initiates signalling at the cell surface to inhibit cell proliferation, might be related to risk of specific tumour sub-types.
The subtype specific associations require very large studies to be confirmed.