Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) may exert tumor-promoting and tumor-suppressive functions, but the mechanisms underlying these opposing effects remain elusive. Here, we sought to understand these potentially opposing functions by interrogating functional relationships among CAF subtypes, their mediators, desmoplasia, and tumor growth in a wide range of tumor types metastasizing to the liver, the most common organ site for metastasis. Depletion of hepatic stellate cells (HSC), which represented the main source of CAF in mice and patients in our study, or depletion of all CAF decreased tumor growth and mortality in desmoplastic colorectal and pancreatic metastasis but not in nondesmoplastic metastatic tumors. Single-cell RNA-Seq in conjunction with CellPhoneDB ligand-receptor analysis, as well as studies in immune cell–depleted and HSC-selective knockout mice, uncovered direct CAF-tumor interactions as a tumor-promoting mechanism, mediated by myofibroblastic CAF–secreted (myCAF-secreted) hyaluronan and inflammatory CAF–secreted (iCAF-secreted) HGF. These effects were opposed by myCAF-expressed type I collagen, which suppressed tumor growth by mechanically restraining tumor spread, overriding its own stiffness-induced mechanosignals. In summary, mechanical restriction by type I collagen opposes the overall tumor-promoting effects of CAF, thus providing a mechanistic explanation for their dual functions in cancer. Therapeutic targeting of tumor-promoting CAF mediators while preserving type I collagen may convert CAF from tumor promoting to tumor restricting.
Sonakshi Bhattacharjee, Florian Hamberger, Aashreya Ravichandra, Maximilian Miller, Ajay Nair, Silvia Affo, Aveline Filliol, LiKang Chin, Thomas M. Savage, Deqi Yin, Naita Maren Wirsik, Adam Mehal, Nicholas Arpaia, Ekihiro Seki, Matthias Mack, Di Zhu, Peter A. Sims, Raghu Kalluri, Ben Z. Stanger, Kenneth P. Olive, Thomas Schmidt, Rebecca G. Wells, Ingmar Mederacke, Robert F. Schwabe
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.