• Immune regulation of tumor cell plasticity: A promising molecular target in breast cancer metastasis

      LEE, EUNMI; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology / Cancer Center (2018-11-29)
      It is widely accepted that phenotypic plasticity of malignant cells is required during metastatic cascade. However, the specific mechanism of how the tumor microenvironment regulates tumor cell plasticity in metastasis is under intense investigation. We demonstrate here that monocytic and granulocytic subsets of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), hereafter called mMDSCs and gMDSCs, infiltrate in the primary tumor and distant organs with different time kinetics and regulate spatiotemporal tumor plasticity. Using co-culture experiments and mouse transcriptome analyses in syngeneic mouse models, we provide evidence that tumor-infiltrating mMDSCs facilitate dissemination from the primary site by inducing the EMT/CSC phenotype. In contrast, pulmonary gMDSC infiltrates support metastatic growth by reverting the EMT/CSC phenotype and promoting tumor cell proliferation. We also observe that lung-derived gMDSCs isolated from tumor-bearing mice enhance metastatic growth of already disseminated tumor cells. Our ongoing studies reveal that calprotectin (S100A8 and S100A9 heterotetramer) is an important regulator of gMDSCs, which play a critical role in promoting breast cancer metastasis by inducing MET-like CSCs as well as suppressing anti-tumor immunity within the pre-metastatic niche. Furthermore, we develop a novel gMDSC-targeting compound that potentially binds to calprotectin and validate its therapeutic utility in a preclinical breast cancer model. Our goal for this study is to elucidate the molecular co-evolution of tumor and immune cells in cancer development and to identify molecular targets to provide alternative therapeutic options for women with metastatic disease.