Accumulating evidence suggests that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are recruited to the tumor microenvironment; however, controversy exists regarding their role in solid tumors. In this study, we identified and confirmed the presence of carcinoma-associated MSCs (CA-MSCs) in the majority of human ovarian tumor samples that we analyzed. These CA-MSCs had a normal morphologic appearance, a normal karyotype, and were nontumorigenic. CA-MSCs were multipotent with capacity for differentiating into adipose, cartilage, and bone. When combined with tumor cells in vivo, CA-MSCs promoted tumor growth more effectively than did control MSCs. In vitro and in vivo studies suggested that CA-MSCs promoted tumor growth by increasing the number of cancer stem cells. Although CA-MSCs expressed traditional MSCs markers, they had an expression profile distinct from that of MSCs from healthy individuals, including increased expression of BMP2, BMP4, and BMP6. Importantly, BMP2 treatment in vitro mimicked the effects of CA-MSCs on cancer stem cells, while inhibiting BMP signaling in vitro and in vivo partly abrogated MSC-promoted tumor growth. Taken together, our data suggest that MSCs in the ovarian tumor microenvironment have an expression profile that promotes tumorigenesis and that BMP inhibition may be an effective therapeutic approach for ovarian cancer.
Karen McLean, Yusong Gong, Yunjung Choi, Ning Deng, Kun Yang, Shoumei Bai, Lourdes Cabrera, Evan Keller, Laurie McCauley, Kathleen R. Cho, Ronald J. Buckanovich
Isolation of ovarian CA-MSCs.