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Primary tumor associated macrophages activate programs of invasion and dormancy in disseminating tumor cells

Authors: Borriello, Lucia; Coste, Anouchka; Sharma, Ved P.; Karagiannis, George S.; Lin, Yu; Wang, Yarong; Ye, Xianjun; Duran, Camille L.; Chen, Xiaoming; Dalla, Erica; Singh, Deepak K.; Oktay, Maja H.; Aguirre-Ghiso, Julio A.; Condeelis, John; Entenberg, David

Online: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28076-3

Issue: Nat Commun. 2022 Feb 2;13(1):626.


Metastases are initiated by disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) that depart from the primary tumor and colonize target organs. Growing evidence suggests that the microenvironment of the primary tumor lesion primes DTCs to display dormant or proliferative fates in target organs. However, the manner in which events taking place in the primary tumor influence DTC fate, sometimes long after dissemination, remains poorly understood. With the advent of a novel intravital imaging technique called the Window for High-Resolution Intravital Imaging of the Lung (WHRIL), we have, for the first time, been able to study the live lung longitudinally and follow the fate of individual DTCs that spontaneously disseminate from orthotopic breast tumors. We find, across several models, a high rate of success for tumor cells to complete the initial steps of the metastatic cascade in the secondary site, including retention of DTCs in the lung vasculature, speed of extravasation, and survival after extravasation. Importantly, initiation of metastatic growth was controlled primarily by a rate-limiting step that occurred post-extravasation and at the stage of the conversion of single DTCs from a dormant to a proliferative state. Detailed analysis of these events revealed that, even before dissemination, a subset of macrophages within the primary tumor induces, in tumor cells that are about to disseminate, the expression of proteins that regulate a pro-dissemination (Mena INV ) and pro-dormancy (NR2F1) phenotype. Surprisingly, if cancer cells are intravenously injected, the rate limiting stages of Mena INV -associated extravasation, dormancy, and other parameters, are lost or altered in a way that impacts how DTCs progress through the metastatic cascade. Our work provides novel insight into how specific primary tumor microenvironments prime a subpopulation of cells for dissemination and dormancy. We also propose that dissecting mechanisms of metastasis, or testing anti-metastatic therapies, may yield results of limited application if derived from models that do not follow spontaneous dissemination. SIGNIFICANCE This study provides important insight into the contribution of primary tumor microenvironmental niches to cancer metastasis by identifying the manner in which these niches spawn subpopulations of DTCs that are primed for dissemination and dormancy in the secondary site. This study may provide novel targets that could be inhibited to prevent successful colonization of the secondary site and, hence, metastasis.