Cancer research

Endothelial cell-secreted EGF induces epithelial to mesenchymal transition and endows head and neck cancer cells with stem-like phenotype.

PMID 24686166


Emerging evidence suggests that endothelial cell-secreted factors contribute to the pathobiology of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by enhancing invasive migration and resistance to anoikis. Here, we report that SCC cells within the perivascular niche have undergone epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in a primary human SCC of a patient that developed distant metastases. Endothelial cell-secreted EGF induced EMT of human SCC cells in vitro and also induced acquisition of a stem-like phenotype. In vivo, tumor xenografts vascularized with EGF-silenced endothelial cells exhibited a smaller fraction of cancer stem-like cells (ALDH(+)CD44(+)) and were less invasive than tumors vascularized with control endothelial cells. Collectively, these results demonstrated that endothelial cell-EGF induces EMT and acquisition of stem-like properties by head and neck tumor cells. On this basis, we suggest that vascular endothelial cells contribute to tumor dissemination by secreting factors that endow carcinoma cells with enhanced motility and stemness.