Embryonic protein NODAL regulates the breast tumor microenvironment by reprogramming cancer-derived secretomes
Neoplasia (United States)
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The tumor microenvironment (TME) is an important mediator of breast cancer progression. Cancer-associated fibroblasts constitute a major component of the TME and may originate from tissue-associated fibroblasts or infiltrating mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). The mechanisms by which cancer cells activate fibroblasts and recruit MSCs to the TME are largely unknown, but likely include deposition of a pro-tumorigenic secretome. The secreted embryonic protein NODAL is clinically associated with breast cancer stage and promotes tumor growth, metastasis, and vascularization. Herein, we show that NODAL expression correlates with the presence of activated fibroblasts in human triple-negative breast cancers and that it directly induces Cancer-associated fibroblasts phenotypes. We further show that NODAL reprograms cancer cell secretomes by simultaneously altering levels of chemokines (e.g., CXCL1), cytokines (e.g., IL-6) and growth factors (e.g., PDGFRA), leading to alterations in MSC chemotaxis. We therefore demonstrate a hitherto unappreciated mechanism underlying the dynamic regulation of the TME.