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The tumor-cell microenvironment is recognized as a dynamic place where critical cell interactions occur and play an important role in altering tumorigenesis. While many studies have investigated the effects of cellular cross-talk within distinct tumor microenvironments, these interactions have yet to be fully examined in bone. It is well-established that many common cancers metastasize to bone, resulting in the development of tumor-induced bone disease (TIBD), a multi-facetted illness that is driven by complex cell interactions within the bone marrow. Our group has previously published that myeloid progenitor cells expand in the presence of tumors in bone, aligning with the notion that myeloid cells can act as tumor promotors. Several groups, including ours, have established that transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), an abundant growth factor in bone, can regulate both TIBD and myeloid expansion. TGF-β inhibitors have been shown to increase bone volume, decrease bone destruction, and reduce but not eliminate tumor. Therefore, we hypothesize that inhibiting TGF-β will reduce myeloid expansion leading to a reduction of tumor burden in bone and osteoclast-mediated bone loss, causing to an overall reduction in TIBD. To address this hypothesis, two different mouse models of breast cancer bone colonization were pre-treated with the TGF-β neutralizing antibody, 1D11, prior to tumor inoculation (athymic: MDA-MB-231, BALB/c: 4T1) and continuously treated until sacrifice. Additionally, a genetically modified mouse model with a myeloid specific deletion of transforming growth factor beta receptor II (TGF-βRII) (TGF-βRII) was utilized in our studies. Systemic inhibition of TGF-β lead to fewer osteolytic lesions, and reduced tumor burden in bone as expected from previous studies. Additionally, early TGF-β inhibition affected expansion of distinct myeloid populations and shifted the cytokine profile of pro-tumorigenic factors in bone, 4T1 tumor cells, and bone-marrow derived macrophages. Similar observations were seen in tumor-bearing TGF-βRII mice, where these mice contained fewer bone lesions and significantly less tumor burden in bone, suggesting that TGF-β inhibition regulates myeloid expansion leading to a significant reduction in TIBD.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Potentiating anti-tumor immunity by inducing tumor inflammation and T cell-mediated responses are a promising area of cancer therapy. Immunomodulatory agents that promote these effects function via a wide variety of mechanisms, including upregulation of antigen presentation pathways. Here, we show that major histocompatibility class-I (MHC-I) genes are methylated in human breast cancers, suppressing their expression. Treatment of breast cancer cell lines with a next-generation hypomethylating agent, guadecitabine, upregulates MHC-I expression in response to interferon-γ. In murine tumor models of breast cancer, guadecitabine upregulates MHC-I in tumor cells promoting recruitment of CD8+ T cells to the microenvironment. Finally, we show that MHC-I genes are upregulated in breast cancer patients treated with hypomethylating agents. Thus, the immunomodulatory effects of hypomethylating agents likely involve upregulation of class-I antigen presentation to potentiate CD8+ T cell responses. These strategies may be useful to potentiate anti-tumor immunity and responses to checkpoint inhibition in immune-refractory breast cancers.
The IL-17/IL-17R axis has controversial roles in cancer, which may be explained by tumor-specific results. Here, we describe a novel molecular mechanism underlying IL-17RC-controlled tumor-specific proliferation. Triggered by IL-17RC knockdown (KD), B16 melanoma and 4T1 carcinoma cells inversely altered homeostatic tumor proliferation and tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. In contrast to the existing dogma that IL-17RC-dependent signaling activates the JNK pathway, IL-17RC KD in both tumor cell lines caused aberrant expression and activation of different JNK isoforms along with markedly diminished levels of the ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20. We demonstrated that differential up-regulation of JNK1 and JNK2 in the two tumor cell lines was responsible for the reciprocal regulation of c-Jun activity and tumor-specific proliferation. Furthermore, we showed that A20 reconstitution of IL-17RCKD clones with expression of full-length A20, but not a truncation-mutant, reversed aberrant JNK1/JNK2 activities and tumor-specific proliferation. Collectively, our study reveals a critical role of IL-17RC in maintaining baseline A20 production and a novel role of the IL-17RC-A20 axis in controlling JNK isoform-dependent tumor-specific homeostatic proliferation.
Tumor microvasculature tends to be malformed, more permeable, and more tortuous than vessels in healthy tissue, effects that have been largely attributed to up-regulated VEGF expression. However, tumor tissue tends to stiffen during solid tumor progression, and tissue stiffness is known to alter cell behaviors including proliferation, migration, and cell-cell adhesion, which are all requisite for angiogenesis. Using in vitro, in vivo, and ex ovo models, we investigated the effects of matrix stiffness on vessel growth and integrity during angiogenesis. Our data indicate that angiogenic outgrowth, invasion, and neovessel branching increase with matrix cross-linking. These effects are caused by increased matrix stiffness independent of matrix density, because increased matrix density results in decreased angiogenesis. Notably, matrix stiffness up-regulates matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity, and inhibiting MMPs significantly reduces angiogenic outgrowth in stiffer cross-linked gels. To investigate the functional significance of altered endothelial cell behavior in response to matrix stiffness, we measured endothelial cell barrier function on substrates mimicking the stiffness of healthy and tumor tissue. Our data indicate that barrier function is impaired and the localization of vascular endothelial cadherin is altered as function of matrix stiffness. These results demonstrate that matrix stiffness, separately from matrix density, can alter vascular growth and integrity, mimicking the changes that exist in tumor vasculature. These data suggest that therapeutically targeting tumor stiffness or the endothelial cell response to tumor stiffening may help restore vessel structure, minimize metastasis, and aid in drug delivery.
Representing an enormous health care and socioeconomic challenge, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world and the second most common cause of cancer-related death. Although many of the challenges associated with preventing, treating, and ultimately curing breast cancer are addressable in the laboratory, successful translation of groundbreaking research to clinical populations remains an important barrier. Particularly when compared with research on other types of solid tumors, breast cancer research is hampered by a lack of tractable in vivo model systems that accurately recapitulate the relevant clinical features of the disease. A primary objective of this article was to provide a generalizable overview of the types of in vivo model systems, with an emphasis primarily on murine models, that are widely deployed in preclinical breast cancer research. Major opportunities to advance precision cancer medicine facilitated by molecular imaging of preclinical breast cancer models are discussed.
© 2016 by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Inc.
Transcriptional repression of E-cadherin is a hallmark of Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) and is associated with cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Understanding the mechanisms underlying E-cadherin repression during EMT may provide insights into the development of novel targeted therapeutics for cancer. Here, we report on the chemical probe, ML327, which de-represses E-cadherin transcription, partially reverses EMT, and inhibits cancer cell invasiveness and tumor cell migration in vitro and in vivo. Induction of E-cadherin mRNA expression by ML327 treatment does not require de novo protein synthesis. RNA sequencing analysis revealed that ML327 treatment significantly alters expression of over 2,500 genes within three hours in the presence of the translational inhibitor, cycloheximide. Network analysis reveals Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4-alpha (HNF4α) as the most significant upstream transcriptional regulator of multiple genes whose expressions were altered by ML327 treatment. Further, small interfering RNA-mediated depletion of HNF4α markedly attenuates the E-cadherin expression response to ML327. In summary, ML327 represents a valuable tool to understand mechanisms of EMT and may provide the basis for a novel targeted therapeutic strategy for carcinomas.
Metastasis is the most devastating aspect of cancer, however we know very little about the mechanisms of local invasion, the earliest step of metastasis. During tumor growth CD11b+ Gr1+ cells, known also as MDSCs, have been shown to promote tumor progression by a wide spectrum of effects that suppress the anti-tumor immune response. In addition to immunosuppression, CD11b+ Gr1+ cells promote metastasis by mechanisms that are currently unknown. CD11b+ Gr1+ cells localize near fibroblasts, which remodel the ECM and leave tracks for collective cell migration of carcinoma cells. In this study we discovered that CD11b+ Gr1+ cells promote invasion of mammary carcinoma cells by increasing fibroblast migration. This effect was directed by secreted factors derived from CD11b+ Gr1+ cells. We have identified several CD11b+ Gr1+ cell secreted proteins that activate fibroblast migration, including CXCL11, CXCL15, FGF2, IGF-I, IL1Ra, Resistin, and Shh. The combination of CXCL11 and FGF2 had the strongest effect on fibroblast migration that is associated with Akt1 and ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Analysis of subsets of CD11b+ Gr1+ cells identified that CD11b+ Ly6Chigh Ly6Glow cells increase fibroblast migration more than other myeloid cell populations. Additionally, tumor-derived CD11b+ Gr1+ cells promote fibroblast migration more than splenic CD11b+ Gr1+ cells of tumor-bearing mice. While TGFβ signaling in fibroblasts does not regulate their migration toward CD11b+ Gr1+ cells, however deletion of TGFβ receptor II on CD11b+ Gr1+ cells downregulates CXCL11, Shh, IGF1 and FGF2 resulting in reduced fibroblast migration. These studies show that TGFβ signaling in CD11b+ Gr1+ cells promotes fibroblast directed carcinoma invasion and suggests that perivascular CD11b+ Ly6Chigh Ly6Glow cells may be the stimulus for localized invasion leading to metastasis.
Breast cancer survival rates decrease from 99% for patients with local disease to 25% for those with distant metastases. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), including MMP2, are associated with metastatic progression. We found that loss of host MMP2 reduces the proliferation of experimental metastases in the lungs and identified fibroblasts in tumour-bearing lungs as the major source of MMP2. In vitro, spheroidal mammary tumour growth was increased by co-culture with control fibroblasts isolated from tumour-bearing lungs, but not when fibroblasts with stable Mmp2 knockdown were used. This result prompted us to assess whether MMP2 was responsible for a tumour-proliferative, activated fibroblast phenotype. To test this, we evaluated: (a) fibroblasts from wild-type tumour-bearing lungs, with or without shRNA-mediated MMP2 knockdown; and (b) normal, quiescent fibroblasts isolated from either WT or Mmp2(-/-) mice. Quantitative PCR revealed that Mmp2 knockdown attenuated expression of two markers of activation (α-smooth muscle actin and vimentin), but there was minimal expression in quiescent WT or Mmp2(-/-) fibroblasts, as expected. Placing quiescent fibroblasts under activating conditions led to increases in activation-associated transcripts in WT but not Mmp2(-/-) fibroblasts. Additionally, Mmp2 knockdown fibroblasts showed significantly decreased expression of the matrix transcripts collagen I, collagen IV and fibronectin. Addition of active TGFβ was sufficient to rescue the MMP2-dependent collagen I and IV expression, while MMP2-induced collagen expression was blocked by the addition of TGFβ1-neutralizing antibody. Gene expression data in stromal cells of human breast cancers reveal that MMP2 expression is also positively correlated with activation and matrix transcripts. Thus, we present a model whereby MMP2 production in tumour fibroblasts is important for TGFβ1 activity and subsequent activation of fibroblasts to a matrix-producing, proliferation-supportive phenotype. Overall, our results reveal a previously undefined role for MMP2 in metastatic outgrowth mediated by fibroblasts, and extend the mechanisms by which MMPs contribute to tumour progression.
Copyright © 2014 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
INTRODUCTION - Transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) plays a major role in the regulation of tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis. It is depended on the type II TGFβ receptor (TβRII) for signaling. Previously, we have shown that deletion of TβRII in mammary epithelial of MMTV-PyMT mice results in shortened tumor latency and increased lung metastases. However, active TGFβ signaling increased the number of circulating tumor cells and metastases in MMTV-Neu mice. In the current study, we describe a newly discovered connection between attenuated TGFβ signaling and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) signaling in mammary tumor progression.
METHODS - All studies were performed on MMTV-Neu mice with and without dominant-negative TβRII (DNIIR) in mammary epithelium. Mammary tumors were analyzed by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence staining. The levels of secreted proteins were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Whole-lung mount staining was used to quantitate lung metastasis. The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) datasets were used to determine the relevance of our findings to human breast cancer.
RESULTS - Attenuated TGFβ signaling led to a delay tumor onset, but increased the number of metastases in MMTVNeu/DNIIR mice. The DNIIR tumors were characterized by increased vasculogenesis, vessel leakage, and increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). During DNIIR tumor progression, both the levels of CXCL1/5 and the number of CD11b+Gr1+ cells and T cells decreased. Analysis of TCGA datasets demonstrated a significant negative correlation between TGFBR2 and VEGF genes expression. Higher VEGFA expression correlated with shorter distant metastasis-free survival only in HER2+ patients with no differences in HER2-, estrogen receptor +/- or progesterone receptor +/- breast cancer patients.
CONCLUSION - Our studies provide insights into a novel mechanism by which epithelial TGFβ signaling modulates the tumor microenvironment, and by which it is involved in lung metastasis in HER2+ breast cancer patients. The effects of pharmacological targeting of the TGFβ pathway in vivo during tumor progression remain controversial. The targeting of TGFβ signaling should be a viable option, but because VEGF has a protumorigenic effect on HER2+ tumors, the targeting of this protein could be considered when it is associated with attenuated TGFβ signaling.
Breast cancers that occur in women 2-5 years postpartum are more frequently diagnosed at metastatic stages and correlate with poorer outcomes compared with breast cancers diagnosed in young, premenopausal women. The molecular mechanisms underlying the malignant severity associated with postpartum breast cancers (ppBCs) are unclear but relate to stromal wound-healing events during postpartum involution, a dynamic process characterized by widespread cell death in milk-producing mammary epithelial cells (MECs). Using both spontaneous and allografted mammary tumors in fully immune-competent mice, we discovered that postpartum involution increases mammary tumor metastasis. Cell death was widespread, not only occurring in MECs but also in tumor epithelium. Dying tumor cells were cleared through receptor tyrosine kinase MerTK-dependent efferocytosis, which robustly induced the transcription of genes encoding wound-healing cytokines, including IL-4, IL-10, IL-13, and TGF-β. Animals lacking MerTK and animals treated with a MerTK inhibitor exhibited impaired efferocytosis in postpartum tumors, a reduction of M2-like macrophages but no change in total macrophage levels, decreased TGF-β expression, and a reduction of postpartum tumor metastasis that was similar to the metastasis frequencies observed in nulliparous mice. Moreover, TGF-β blockade reduced postpartum tumor metastasis. These data suggest that widespread cell death during postpartum involution triggers efferocytosis-induced wound-healing cytokines in the tumor microenvironment that promote metastatic tumor progression.