Stress-inducible gene Atf3 in the noncancer host cells contributes to chemotherapy-exacerbated breast cancer metastasis [Medical Sciences]
Chemotherapy is a double-edged sword. It is anticancer because of its cytotoxicity. Paradoxically, by increasing chemoresistance and cancer metastasis, it is also procancer. However, the underlying mechanisms for chemotherapy-induced procancer activities are not well understood. Here we describe the ability of paclitaxel (PTX), a frontline chemotherapeutic agent, to exacerbate metastasis in mouse models of breast cancer. We demonstrate that, despite the apparent benefit of reducing tumor size, PTX increased the circulating tumor cells in the blood and enhanced the metastatic burden at the lung. At the primary tumor, PTX increased the abundance of the tumor microenvironment of metastasis, a landmark microanatomical structure at the microvasculature where cancer cells enter the blood stream. At the metastatic lung, PTX improved the tissue microenvironment (the “soil”) for cancer cells (the “seeds”) to thrive; these changes include increased inflammatory monocytes and reduced cytotoxicity. Importantly, these changes in the primary tumor and the metastatic lung were all dependent on Atf3, a stress-inducible gene, in the noncancer host cells. Together, our data provide mechanistic insights into the procancer effect of chemotherapy, explaining its paradox in the context of the seed-and-soil theory. Analyses of public datasets suggest that our data may have relevance to human cancers. Thus, ATF3 in the host cells links a chemotherapeutic agent—a stressor—to immune modulation and cancer metastasis. Dampening the effect of ATF3 may improve the efficacy of chemotherapy.
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