Astrocytes are key stromal components in glioblastoma (GBM) and have complex interactions with the GBM cells (GBC) promoting the survival, progression and therapy resistance of GBM. In this study, we first demonstrated the existence of a reciprocal activation loop mediated by the STAT3/IL-6 signaling between GBC and astrocytes. This loop of reciprocity was found to be initiated by the constitutive activity of STAT3 and downstream expression of IL-6 in the GBC. GBC-derived IL-6 activated STAT3 and thereby upregulated IL-6 expression in the astrocytes. Astrocyte-derived IL-6 acted back on the GBC causing further activation of STAT3 and leading to enhanced downstream events that promote proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis resistance of the GBC. Next, we showed that doxorubicin-polyglycerol-nanodiamond conjugates (Nano-DOX), which could be delivered via GBM-associated macrophages, suppressed STAT3 activity in the GBC reducing their IL-6 output to the astrocytes and thereby abolished the astrocytes' feedback activation of the GBC. Moreover, Nano-DOX also suppressed stimulated activation of STAT3 and IL-6 induced by temozolomide, a first-line anti-GBM chemotherapy, resistance to which critically involves STAT3 activation. In conclusion, Nano-DOX could disrupt the STAT3/IL-6-mediated reciprocal activation loop between the GBC and astrocytes. Nano-DOX also provides a novel approach to therapeutic modulation of the GBM microenvironment.
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