• Cancer cells metabolically "fertilize" the tumor microenvironment with hydrogen peroxide, driving the Warburg effect: implications for PET imaging of human tumors.

      Martinez-Outschoorn, U E; Lin, Z; Trimmer, C; Flomenberg, N; Wang, C; Pavlides, S; Pestell, R G; Howell, Anthony; Sotgia, F; Lisanti, M P; et al. (2011-08-01)
      Previously, we proposed that cancer cells behave as metabolic parasites, as they use targeted oxidative stress as a "weapon" to extract recycled nutrients from adjacent stromal cells. Oxidative stress in cancer-associated fibroblasts triggers autophagy and  mitophagy, resulting in compartmentalized cellular catabolism, loss of mitochondrial function, and the onset of aerobic glycolysis, in the tumor stroma. As such, cancer-associated fibroblasts produce high-energy nutrients (such as lactate and ketones) that fuel mitochondrial biogenesis, and oxidative metabolism in cancer cells. We have termed this new energy-transfer mechanism the "reverse Warburg effect." To further test the validity of this hypothesis, here we used an in vitro MCF7-fibroblast co-culture system, and quantitatively measured a variety of metabolic parameters by FACS analysis (analogous to laser-capture micro-dissection).  Mitochondrial activity, glucose uptake, and ROS production were measured with highly-sensitive fluorescent probes (MitoTracker, NBD-2-deoxy-glucose, and DCF-DA). Interestingly, using this approach, we directly show that cancer cells initially secrete hydrogen peroxide that then triggers oxidative stress in neighboring fibroblasts. Thus, oxidative stress is contagious (spreads like a virus) and is propagated laterally and vectorially from cancer cells to adjacent fibroblasts. Experimentally, we show that oxidative stress in cancer-associated fibroblasts quantitatively reduces mitochondrial activity, and increases glucose uptake, as the fibroblasts become more dependent on aerobic glycolysis.  Conversely, co-cultured cancer cells show significant increases in mitochondrial activity, and corresponding reductions in both glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression. Pre-treatment of co-cultures with extracellular catalase (an anti-oxidant enzyme that detoxifies hydrogen peroxide) blocks the onset of oxidative stress, and potently induces the death of cancer cells, likely via starvation.  Given that cancer-associated fibroblasts show the largest increases in glucose uptake, we suggest that PET imaging of human tumors, with Fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (F-2-DG), may be specifically detecting the tumor stroma, rather than epithelial cancer cells.