Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are multipotent adult stem cells which are recruited to the tumor microenvironment (TME) and influence tumor progression through multiple mechanisms. In this study, we examined the effects of MSCs on the tunmorigenic capacity of 4T1 murine mammary cancer cells. It was found that MSC-conditioned medium increased the proliferation, migration, and efficiency of mammosphere formation of 4T1 cells in vitro. When co-injected with MSCs into the mouse mammary fat pad, 4T1 cells showed enhanced tumor growth and generated increased spontaneous lung metastasis. Using in vivo fluorescence color-coded imaging, the interaction between GFP-expressing MSCs and RFP-expressing 4T1 cells was monitored. As few as five 4T1 cells could give rise to tumor formation when co-injected with MSCs into the mouse mammary fat pad, but no tumor was formed when five or ten 4T1 cells were implanted alone. The elevation of tumorigenic potential was further supported by gene expression analysis, which showed that when 4T1 cells were in contact with MSCs, several oncogenes, cancer markers, and tumor promoters were upregulated. Moreover, in vivo longitudinal fluorescence imaging of tumorigenesis revealed that MSCs created a vascularized environment which enhances the ability of 4T1 cells to colonize and proliferate. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the promotion of mammary cancer progression by MSCs was achieved through the generation of a cancer-enhancing microenvironment to increase tumorigenic potential. These findings also suggest the potential risk of enhancing tumor progression in clinical cell therapy using MSCs. Attention has to be paid to patients with high risk of breast cancer when considering cell therapy with MSCs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)