Cooperation among heterogeneous prostate cancer cells in the bone metastatic niche

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Abstract

The growth of disseminated tumor cells into metastatic lesions depends on the establishment of a favorable microenvironment in the stroma of the target organs. Here we show that mice treated with anakinra, an antagonist of the interleukin (IL)-1β receptor (IL-1R), or harboring a targeted deletion of IL-1R are significantly less prone to develop bone tumors when inoculated in the arterial circulation with human prostate cancer (PCa) cells expressing IL-1β. Interestingly, human mesenchymal stem cells exposed in vitro to medium conditioned by IL-1β-expressing cancer cells responded by upregulating S100A4, a marker of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and this effect was blocked by anakinra. Analogously, the stroma adjacent to skeletal metastases generated in mice by IL-1β-expressing cancer cells showed a dramatic increase in S100A4, COX-2 and the alteration of 30 tumor-related genes as measured by Nanostring analysis. These effects were not observed in the stroma associated with the rare and much smaller metastases generated by the same cells in IL-1R knockout animals, confirming that tumor-secreted IL-1β generates skeletal CAFs and conditions the surrounding bone microenvironment. In skeletal lesions from patients with metastatic PCa, histological and molecular analyses revealed that IL-1β is highly expressed in cancer cells in which the androgen receptor (AR) is not detected (AR-), whereas this cytokine is uniformly absent in the AR-positive (AR+) metastatic cells. The stroma conditioned by IL-1β-expressing cancer cells served as a supportive niche also for coexisting IL-1β-lacking cancer cells, which are otherwise unable to generate tumors after independently seeding the skeleton of mice. This niche is established very early following tumor seeding and hints to a role of IL-1β in promoting early colonization of PCa at the skeletal level.

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