Contributions of the tumor microenvironment (TME) to progression in thyroid cancer are largely unexplored and may illuminate a basis for understanding rarer aggressive cases of this disease. In this study, we investigated the relationship between the TME and thyroid cancer progression in a mouse model where thyroid-specific expression of oncogenic BRAF and loss of Pten (Braf(V600E)/Pten(-/-)/TPO-Cre) leads to papillary thyroid cancers (PTC) that rapidly progress to poorly differentiated thyroid cancer (PDTC). We found that fibroblasts were recruited to the TME of Braf(V600E)/Pten(-/-)/TPO-Cre thyroid tumors. Conditioned media from cell lines established from these tumors, but not tumors driven by mutant H-ras, induced fibroblast migration and proliferation in vitro Notably, the extracellular matrix of Braf(V600E)/Pten(-/-)/TPO-Cre tumors was enriched with stromal-derived fibrillar collagen, compared with wild-type or Hras-driven tumors. Further, type I collagen enhanced the motility of Braf(V600E)/Pten(-/-)/TPO-Cre tumor cells in vitro In clinical specimens, we found COL1A1 and LOX to be upregulated in PTC and expressed at highest levels in PDTC and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Additionally, increased expression levels of COL1A1 and LOX were associated with decreased survival in thyroid cancer patients. Overall, our results identified fibroblast recruitment and remodeling of the extracellular matrix as pivotal features of the TME in promoting thyroid cancer progression, illuminating candidate therapeutic targets and biomarkers in advanced forms of this malignancy. Cancer Res; 76(7); 1804-13. ©2016 AACR.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.