Endothelial cells provide a notch-dependent pro-tumoral niche for enhancing breast cancer survival, stemness and pro-metastatic properties
Neoplastic Stem Cells
Treating metastasis has been challenging due to tumors complexity and heterogeneity. This complexity is partly related to the crosstalk between tumor and its microenvironment. Endothelial cells -the building blocks of tumor vasculature- have been shown to have additional roles in cancer progression than angiogenesis and supplying oxygen and nutrients. Here, we show an alternative role for endothelial cells in supporting breast cancer growth and spreading independent of their vascular functions. Using endothelial cells and breast cancer cell lines MDA-MB231 and MCF-7, we developed co-culture systems to study the influence of tumor endothelium on breast tumor development by both in vitro and in vivo approaches. Our results demonstrated that endothelial cells conferred survival advantage to tumor cells under complete starvation and enriched the CD44HighCD24Low/- stem cell population in tumor cells. Moreover, endothelial cells enhanced the pro-metastatic potential of breast cancer cells. The in vitro and in vivo results concordantly confirmed a role for endothelial Jagged1 to promote breast tumor through notch activation. Here, we propose a role for endothelial cells in enhancing breast cancer progression, stemness, and pro-metastatic traits through a perfusion-independent manner. Our findings may be beneficial in developing novel therapeutic approaches.