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      Spheroid formation and invasion capacity are differentially influenced by co-cultures of fibroblast and macrophage cells in breast cancer.

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          Interactions with stromal components influence the growth, survival, spread, and colonization capacities of tumor cells. Fibroblasts and macrophages which are responsible for the stroma production and maintenance are of the basic elements found in tumor microenvironment. Cellular density and ratio of stromal cells to tumor cells can also have modulatory effects in cancer. Here, the contribution of fibroblast and/or macrophage cells on the malignant behavior of breast cancer cells was modeled in co-culture systems. Co-cultures were established at different cell densities and ratios with 4T1 breast cancer, NIH/3T3 or 3T3-L1 fibroblast, and J774A.1 monocyte/macrophage cell lines. Flow cytometry-based proliferation, 3D growth on alginate matrix, and matrigel invasion assays were performed to determine the change in the malignant assets of tumor cells. The data were also supported by immunocytochemical and morphological analyses. Co-culturing with fibroblasts (especially, NIH/3T3 cells) significantly supported the proliferation, scattering, and invasiveness of 4T1 cells whereas inclusion of macrophages disrupted this positive influence. On the other hand, the invasion capacity of 4T1 cells was not enhanced in the co-cultures with fibroblasts whose motility were inhibited with pertussis toxin pretreatment. Particularly at low-density seeding in 3D cultures, 4T1 cells could form substantially more spheroids than that of in the co-cultures with fibroblasts. Only, increasing the amount of fibroblasts could restore the 3D-growth. Intriguingly, co-existence of macrophage, fibroblast, and tumor cells in 3D cultures provided a convenient stroma sustaining the spheroid formation and growth. In conclusion, fibroblasts can form a favorable environment for tumor cells' spread and motility whereas restricting their 3D-growth capacity. On the other hand, presence of macrophages may disrupt the influence of fibroblasts and enhance the spheroid formation by the tumor cells.

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          Author and article information

          Mol. Biol. Rep.
          Molecular biology reports
          May 2014
          : 41
          : 5
          [1 ] Department of Basic Oncology, Hacettepe University Cancer Institute, Sihhiye, 06100, Ankara, Turkey.


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