• Cytokine production and inflammation drive autophagy in the tumor microenvironment: role of stromal caveolin-1 as a key regulator.

      Martinez-Outschoorn, U E; Whitaker-Menezes, D; Lin, Z; Flomenberg, N; Howell, Anthony; Pestell, R G; Lisanti, M P; Sotgia, F; Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, USA. (2011-06-01)
      Recently, we proposed a new paradigm for understanding the role of the tumor microenvironment in breast cancer onset and progression. In this model, cancer cells induce oxidative stress in adjacent fibroblasts. This, in turn, results in the onset of stromal autophagy, which produces recycled nutrients to "feed" anabolic cancer cells. However, it remains unknown how autophagy in the tumor microenvironment relates to inflammation, another key driver of tumorigenesis. To address this issue, here we employed a well-characterized co-culture system in which cancer cells induce autophagy in adjacent fibroblasts via oxidative stress and NFκB-activation. We show, using this co-culture system, that the same experimental conditions that result in an autophagic microenvironment, also drive in the production of numerous inflammatory mediators (including IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, MIP1a, IFNg, RANTES (CCL5) and GMCSF). Furthermore, we demonstrate that most of these inflammatory mediators are individually sufficient to directly induce the onset of autophagy in fibroblasts. To further validate the in vivo relevance of these findings, we assessed the inflammatory status of Cav-1 (-/-) null mammary fat pads, which are a model of a bonafide autophagic microenvironment. Notably, we show that Cav-1 (-/-) mammary fat pads undergo infiltration with numerous inflammatory cell types, including lymphocytes, T-cells, macrophages and mast cells. Taken together, our results suggest that cytokine production and inflammation are key drivers of autophagy in the tumor microenvironment. These results may explain why a loss of stromal Cav-1 is a powerful predictor of poor clinical outcome in breast cancer patients, as it is a marker of both (1) autophagy and (2) inflammation in the tumor microenvironment. Lastly, hypoxia in fibroblasts was not sufficient to induce the full-blown inflammatory response that we observed during the co-culture of fibroblasts with cancer cells, indicating that key reciprocal interactions between cancer cells and fibroblasts may be required.
    • Hypoxic human cancer cells are sensitized to BH-3 mimetic–induced apoptosis via downregulation of the Bcl-2 protein Mcl-1.

      Harrison, Luke R; Micha, Dimitra; Brandenburg, Martin; Simpson, Kathryn L; Morrow, Christopher J; Denneny, Olive; Hodgkinson, Cassandra L; Yunus, Zaira; Dempsey, Clare E; Roberts, Darren L; et al. (2011-03-01)
      Solid tumors contain hypoxic regions in which cancer cells are often resistant to chemotherapy-induced apoptotic cell death. Therapeutic strategies that specifically target hypoxic cells and promote apoptosis are particularly appealing, as few normal tissues experience hypoxia. We have found that the compound ABT-737, a Bcl-2 homology domain 3 (BH-3) mimetic, promotes apoptotic cell death in human colorectal carcinoma and small cell lung cancer cell lines exposed to hypoxia. This hypoxic induction of apoptosis was mediated through downregulation of myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (Mcl-1), a Bcl-2 family protein that serves as a biomarker for ABT-737 resistance. Downregulation of Mcl-1 in hypoxia was independent of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) activity and was consistent with decreased global protein translation. In addition, ABT-737 induced apoptosis deep within tumor spheroids, consistent with an optimal hypoxic oxygen tension being necessary to promote ABT-737–induced cell death. Tumor xenografts in ABT-737–treated mice also displayed significantly more apoptotic cells within hypoxic regions relative to normoxic regions. Synergies between ABT-737 and other cytotoxic drugs were maintained in hypoxia, suggesting that this drug may be useful in combination with chemotherapeutic agents. Taken together, these findings suggest that Mcl-1–sparing BH-3 mimetics may induce apoptosis in hypoxic tumor cells that are resistant to other chemotherapeutic agents and may have a role in combinatorial chemotherapeutic regimens for treatment of solid tumors.