Stroma-directed imatinib therapy impairs the tumor-promoting effect of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in an orthotopic transplantation model of colon cancer



Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are reported to contribute to formation of tumor-promoting stromal cells. We reported recently that, in an orthotopic nude mice model of colon cancer, MSCs traveled to tumor stroma, where they differentiated into carcinoma-associated fibroblast (CAF)-like cells. We also found that CAFs express platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) at a high level and that imatinib therapy targeting PDGFR in CAFs inhibits growth and metastasis of human colon cancer. These findings led us to examine whether the tumor-promoting effect of MSCs is impaired by blockade of PDGFR signaling achieved with imatinib. Orthotopic transplantation and splenic injection of human MSCs along with KM12SM human colon cancer cells, in comparison with transplantation of KM12SM cells alone, resulted in significantly greater promotion of tumor growth and liver metastasis. The KM12SM + MSC xenograft enhanced cell proliferation and angiogenesis and inhibited tumor cell apoptosis. When tumor-bearing animals were treated with imatinib, there was no significant increase in primary tumor volume or total volume of liver metastases, despite the KM12SM+MSC xenograft, and survival in the mixed-cell group was prolonged by imatinib treatment. Moreover, the ability of MSCs to migrate to tumor stroma was impaired, and the number of MSCs surviving in the tumor microenvironment was significantly decreased. In in vitro experiments, treatment with imatinib inhibited migration of MSCs. Our data suggest that blockade of PDGF signaling pathways influences the interaction between bone marrow-derived MSCs and tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment and, hence, inhibits the progressive growth of colon cancer.