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      Opposing roles of CXCR4 and CXCR7 in breast cancer metastasis

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          CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling has been shown to play a role in breast cancer progression by enhancing tumor growth, angiogenesis, triggering cancer cell invasion in vitro, and guiding cancer cells to their sites of metastasis. However, CXCR7 also binds to CXCL12 and has been recently found to enhance lung and breast primary tumor growth, as well as metastasis formation. Our goal was to dissect the contributions of CXCR4 and CXCR7 to the different steps of metastasis - in vivo invasion, intravasation and metastasis formation.


          We overexpressed CXCR4, CXCR7 or both in the rat mammary adenocarcinoma cell line MTLn3. Stable expressors were used to form tumors in severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice, and in vivo invasiveness, intravital motility, intravasation, and metastasis were measured.


          We found that CXCR4 overexpression increased the chemotactic and invasive behavior of MTLn3 cells to CXCL12, both in vitro and in vivo, as well as in vivo motility and intravasation. CXCR7 overexpression enhanced primary tumor growth and angiogenesis (as indicated by microvessel density and VEGFA expression), but decreased in vivo invasion, intravasation, and metastasis formation. In vitro, expression of CXCR7 alone had no effect in chemotaxis or invasion to CXCL12. However, in the context of increased CXCR4 expression, CXCR7 enhanced chemotaxis to CXCL12 but decreased invasion in response to CXCL12 in vitro and in vivo and impaired CXCL12 stimulated matrix degradation. The changes in matrix degradation correlated with expression of matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP12).


          We find that CXCR4 and CXCR7 play different roles in metastasis, with CXCR4 mediating breast cancer invasion and CXCR7 impairing invasion but enhancing primary tumor growth through angiogenesis.

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          Most cited references 38

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          Stromal fibroblasts in cancer: a novel tumor-promoting cell type.

          Tumors are highly complex tissues composed of neoplastic cells and, in the case of carcinomas, stromal cell compartments containing a variety of mesenchymal cells, notably fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, endothelial cells, pericytes, and a variety of inflammatory cells associated with the immune system. Fibroblasts and myofibroblasts often represent the majority of the stromal cells within various types of human carcinomas, yet the specific contributions of these cells to tumor growth are poorly understood. Recent work has demonstrated that stromal fibroblast fractions, named carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), that have been extracted from a number of invasive human breast carcinomas are more competent to promote the growth of mammary carcinoma cells and to enhance tumor angiogenesis than are comparable cells derived from outside of these tumor masses. CAFs include large populations of myofibroblasts that secrete elevated levels of stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1), also called CXCL12, which plays a central role in the promotion of tumor growth and angiogenesis; CAF-derived SDF-1 not only stimulates carcinoma cell growth directly through the CXCR4 receptor displayed on tumor cells but also serves to recruit endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) into tumors, thereby furthering neoangiogenesis. In this review, we highlight the importance of this SDF-1-CXCR4 signaling pathway in the tumor microenvironment and discuss the mechanisms by which stromal fibroblasts within mammary carcinomas enhance tumor growth.
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            CXCR7 (RDC1) promotes breast and lung tumor growth in vivo and is expressed on tumor-associated vasculature.

            Chemokines and chemokine receptors have been posited to have important roles in several common malignancies, including breast and lung cancer. Here, we demonstrate that CXCR7 (RDC1, CCX-CKR2), recently deorphanized as a chemokine receptor that binds chemokines CXCL11 and CXCL12, can regulate these two common malignancies. Using a combination of overexpression and RNA interference, we establish that CXCR7 promotes growth of tumors formed from breast and lung cancer cells and enhances experimental lung metastases in immunodeficient as well as immunocompetent mouse models of cancer. These effects did not depend on expression of the related receptor CXCR4. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry of primary human tumor tissue demonstrates extensive CXCR7 expression in human breast and lung cancers, where it is highly expressed on a majority of tumor-associated blood vessels and malignant cells but not expressed on normal vasculature. In addition, a critical role for CXCR7 in vascular formation and angiogenesis during development is demonstrated by using morpholino-mediated knockdown of CXCR7 in zebrafish. Taken together, these data suggest that CXCR7 has key functions in promoting tumor development and progression.
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              CXCR4 regulates growth of both primary and metastatic breast cancer.

              The chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its cognate ligand CXCL12 recently have been proposed to regulate the directional trafficking and invasion of breast cancer cells to sites of metastases. However, effects of CXCR4 on the growth of primary breast cancer tumors and established metastases and survival have not been determined. We used stable RNAi to reduce expression of CXCR4 in murine 4T1 cells, a highly metastatic mammary cancer cell line that is a model for stage IV human breast cancer. Using noninvasive bioluminescence and magnetic resonance imaging, we showed that knockdown of CXCR4 significantly limited the growth of orthotopically transplanted breast cancer cells. Mice in which parental 4T1 cells were implanted had progressively enlarging tumors that spontaneously metastasized, and these animals all died from metastatic disease. Remarkably, RNAi of CXCR4 prevented primary tumor formation in some mice, and all mice transplanted with CXCR RNAi cells survived without developing macroscopic metastases. To analyze effects of CXCR4 on metastases to the lung, an organ commonly affected by metastatic breast cancer, we injected tumor cells intravenously and monitored cell growth with bioluminescence imaging. Inhibiting CXCR4 with RNAi, or the specific antagonist AMD3100, substantially delayed the growth of 4T1 cells in the lung, although neither RNAi nor AMD3100 prolonged overall survival in mice with experimental lung metastases. These data indicate that CXCR4 is required to initiate proliferation and/or promote survival of breast cancer cells in vivo and suggest that CXCR4 inhibitors will improve treatment of patients with primary and metastatic breast cancer.

                Author and article information

                Breast Cancer Res
                Breast Cancer Res
                Breast Cancer Research : BCR
                BioMed Central
                9 December 2011
                : 13
                : 6
                : R128
                [1 ]Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
                [2 ]Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
                Copyright ©2011 Hernandez et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article

                Oncology & Radiotherapy


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