Molecular pathway activation features linked with transition from normal skin to primary and metastatic melanomas in human.
Nitric oxide (NO) plays a central role in angiogenesis as a mediator of signaling by vascular endothelial growth factor and other angiogenic factors. Low concentrations of NO produced in response to angiogenic factors stimulate angiogenesis, whereas higher concentrations typical of inflammatory responses inhibit angiogenesis. The proangiogenic activity of NO is mediated by activation of soluble guanylyl cyclase, leading to cyclic guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate accumulation and activation of its target kinases and ion channels. The four angiogenesis inhibitors currently approved for clinical use target components of the signaling cascade upstream of NO. New research has identified components downstream of NO as the primary target of the endogenous angiogenesis inhibitor thrombospondin-1 and has shown that circulating levels of thrombospondin-1 are sufficient to limit angiogenic responses by antagonizing NO signaling. This provides new insights into the significance of the widespread loss of thrombospondin-1 expression during malignant progression. Although clinical trials suggest that blocking NO signaling can inhibit tumor angiogenesis, this approach also inactivates inhibitory signaling from thrombospondin-1. We discuss the implications of the balance between these pathways for applying thrombospondin-1 mimetics and redox modifiers as cancer therapeutics.