Scientific Reports

Mesenchymal stem cells from tumor microenvironment favour breast cancer stem cell proliferation, cancerogenic and metastatic potential, via ionotropic purinergic signalling

Download paper


Interaction between tumor cells and the microenvironment is key in initiation, progression, and invasiveness of cancer. In particular, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are recruited to the sites of developing tumors, thus promoting metastasis formation. Although it is well known that MSCs migrate and integrate in the tumor microenvironment (TME), their fate and function inside the tumor is still not clear. In this study, we analyzed the role played by MSCs in breast cancer oncogenesis. Data indicate that interaction of breast cancer cells with MSCs results in an increased proliferation and metabolic activity of breast cancer cells, partially due to MSC-derived microvesicles that are shed in the TME. Moreover, we addressed the question of whether we could modulate such interaction by acting on P2X-mediated intercellular communication. By inhibiting P2X-mediated purinergic signaling, we succeeded in reducing both the cancerogenic as well as the metastatic potential of breast cancer cells co-cultured with MSCs, in 2D as well as in 3D in vitro models. Data obtained demonstrate for the first time that the trophic effect of MSCs on breast cancer cell growth is exerted via ionotropic purinergic signaling, thus suggesting the inhibition of the purinergic signaling system as a potential target for therapeutic intervention.