Fibroblast growth factor receptor is a mechanistic link between visceral adiposity and cancer
Epidemiological evidence implicates excess adipose tissue in increasing cancer risk. Despite a steeply rising global prevalence of obesity, how adiposity contributes to transformation (stage a non-tumorigenic cell undergoes to become malignant) is unknown. To determine the factors in adipose tissue that stimulate transformation, we used a novel ex vivo system of visceral adipose tissue (VAT)-condition medium-stimulated epithelial cell growth in soft agar. To extend this system in vivo, we used a murine lipectomy model of ultraviolet light B-induced, VAT-promoted skin tumor formation. We found that VAT from mice and obese human donors stimulated growth in soft agar of non-tumorigenic epithelial cells. The difference in VAT activity was associated with fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) levels. Moreover, human and mouse VAT failed to stimulate growth in soft of agar in cells deficient in FGFR-1 (FGF2 receptor). We also demonstrated that circulating levels of FGF2 were associated with non-melanoma tumor formation in vivo. These data implicate FGF2 as a major factor VAT releases to transform epithelial cells—a novel, potential pathway of VAT-enhanced tumorigenesis. Strategies designed to deplete VAT stores of FGF2 or inhibit FGFR-1 in abdominally obese individuals may be important cancer prevention strategies as well as adjuvant therapies for improving outcomes.