The tumor microenvironment (TME) is a dynamic tissue space in which the tumor exists, plays a significant role in tumor initiation, and is a key contributor in cancer progression; however, little is known about tumor-induced changes in the adjacent tissue stroma. Herein, tumor-induced changes in the TME were explored at the morphological and molecular level to further understand cancer progression. Tumor-adjacent mammary glands (TAGs) displayed altered branching morphology, expansion of myofibroblasts, and increased mammosphere formation, broadly suggesting a tumor-induced field effect. FACS analysis of TAGs demonstrated an increased number of Lin-CD24+/CD49+ enriched mammary gland stem cells (MaSCs), suggesting deregulated tissue homeostasis in TAGs. Comparative transcriptome analysis of TAGs and contralateral control glands coupled with meta-analysis on differentially expressed genes with two breast cancer stromal patient microarray datasets identified shared upregulation of STAT1. Knockdown of STAT1 in cancer-associated fibroblast (CAFs) co-cultured with human breast cancer cells altered cancer cell proliferation, indicating a role for STAT1 as a stromal contributor of tumorigenesis. Furthermore, depletion of STAT1 in CAFs significantly reduced periductal reactive fibrosis and delayed early breast cancer progression in vivo. Lastly, co-treatment with fludarabine, a FDA-approved STAT1 activation inhibitor and DNA synthesis inhibitor, in combination with doxorubicin, showed enhanced therapeutic efficacy in treating mouse mammary gland tumors. Taken together, these results demonstrate that stromal STAT1 expression promotes tumor progression and is a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer. Implications: Tumors induce stromal STAT1-dependent cytokine secretion that promotes tumor cell proliferation and can be targeted using clinically-approved inhibitors of STAT1.
- Received September 15, 2016.
- Revision received December 13, 2016.
- Accepted January 3, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.