American Association for Cancer Research
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Dissemination of CAF-cancer cell complex from A Zebrafish Model Discovers a Novel Mechanism of Stromal Fibroblast-Mediated Cancer Metastasis

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posted on 2023-03-31, 19:25 authored by Caifeng Liu, Yunjian Zhang, Sharon Lim, Kayoko Hosaka, Yunlong Yang, Tatiana Pavlova, Twana Alkasalias, Johan Hartman, Lasse Jensen, Xiaoming Xing, Xinsheng Wang, Yongtian Lu, Guohui Nie, Yihai Cao

Video - Dissemination of CAF-cancer cell complex


European Research Council

Swedish Research Council

Karolinska Institute Foundation

Torsten Soderbergs Foundation

High Level University Construction of Medical Discipline



Purpose: Cancer metastasis can occur at the early stage of tumor development when a primary tumor is at the microscopic size. In particular, the interaction of malignant cells with other cell types including cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) in promoting metastasis at the early stage of tumor development remains largely unknown. Here, we investigated the role of CAFs in facilitating the initial events of cancer metastasis when primary tumors were at microscopic sizes.Experimental Design: Multicolor-coded cancer cells and CAFs were coimplanted into the transparent zebrafish body and metastasis at a single-cell level was monitored in living animals. Healthy fibroblasts, tumor factor–educated fibroblasts, and CAFs isolated from various tumors were tested for their ability to facilitate metastasis.Results: We showed that CAFs promoted cancer cell metastasis at the very early stage during primary tumor development. When a primary tumor was at the microscopic size consisting of a few hundred cells, CAFs were able to hijack cancer cells for dissemination from the primary site. Surprisingly, a majority of metastatic cancer cells remained in tight association with CAFs in the circulation. Furthermore, stimulation of non–metastasis-promoting normal fibroblasts with TGF-B, FGF-2, HGF, and PDGF-BB led to acquisition of their metastatic capacity.Conclusions: Cancer metastasis occurs at the very early stage of tumor formation consisting of only a few hundred cells. CAFs are the key cellular determinant for metastasis. Our findings provide novel mechanistic insights on CAFs in promoting cancer metastasis and targeting CAFs for cancer therapy should be aimed at the early stage during cancer development. Clin Cancer Res; 23(16); 4769–79. ©2017 AACR.