Evolution of cancer stem-like cells in endocrine-resistant metastatic breast cancers is mediated by stromal microvesicles Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells
  • Stromal Cells


  • The hypothesis that microvesicle-mediated miRNA transfer converts noncancer stem cells into cancer stem cells (CSC) leading to therapy resistance remains poorly investigated. Here we provide direct evidence supporting this hypothesis, by demonstrating how microvesicles derived from cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) transfer miR-221 to promote hormonal therapy resistance (HTR) in models of luminal breast cancer. We determined that CAF-derived microvesicles horizontally transferred miR-221 to tumor cells and, in combination with hormone therapy, activated an ER(lo)/Notch(hi) feed-forward loop responsible for the generation of CD133(hi) CSCs. Importantly, microvesicles from patients with HTR metastatic disease expressed high levels of miR-221. We further determined that the IL6-pStat3 pathway promoted the biogenesis of onco-miR-221(hi) CAF microvesicles and established stromal CSC niches in experimental and patient-derived breast cancer models. Coinjection of patient-derived CAFs from bone metastases led to de novo HTR tumors, which was reversed with IL6R blockade. Finally, we generated patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models from patient-derived HTR bone metastases and analyzed tumor cells, stroma, and microvesicles. Murine and human CAFs were enriched in HTR tumors expressing high levels of CD133(hi) cells. Depletion of murine CAFs from PDX restored sensitivity to HT, with a concurrent reduction of CD133(hi) CSCs. Conversely, in models of CD133(neg), HT-sensitive cancer cells, both murine and human CAFs promoted de novo HT resistance via the generation of CD133(hi) CSCs that expressed low levels of estrogen receptor alpha. Overall, our results illuminate how microvesicle-mediated horizontal transfer of genetic material from host stromal cells to cancer cells triggers the evolution of therapy-resistant metastases, with potentially broad implications for their control. Cancer Res; 77(8); 1927-41. ©2017 AACR.

publication date

  • April 15, 2017



  • Academic Article



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC5392366

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-2129

PubMed ID

  • 28202520

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1927

end page

  • 1941


  • 77


  • 8