Breast cancer (BC) cells (BCCs) can retain cellular quiescence for decades, a phenomenon referred to as dormancy. BCCs show preference for the bone marrow (BM) where they can remain dormant for decades. Targeting BCCs within the BM is a challenge since the dormant BCCs reside within BM stroma, also residence for hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Dormant BCCs could behave as cancer stem cells (CSCs). The CSCs and HSCs are similar by function and also, by commonly expressed genes. The method by which dormant BCCs transition into clinically metastatic cells remains unclear. This study tested the hypothesis that macrophages (MΦs) within BM stroma, facilitates dormancy or reverse this state into metastatic cells. MΦs exhibiting an M2 phenotype constitute ~10% of cultured BM stroma. The M2 MΦs form gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) with CSCs, resulting in cycling quiescence, reduced proliferation and carboplatin resistance. In contrast, MΦs expressing the M1 phenotype reversed BC dormancy. Activation of M2a MΦs via the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) switched to M1 phenotype. The switch can occur by direct activation of M2a MΦs, or indirectly through activation of mesenchymal stem cells. M1 MΦ-derived exosomes activated NFкB to reverse quiescent BCCs to cycling cells. Using an in vivo model of BC dormancy, injected Mi MOs sensitized BCCs to carboplatin and increased host survival. In summary, we have shown how BM stromal MΦs, through exosomes, regulate the behavior of BCCs, by either inducing or reversing dormancy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research