Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) have been reported to support tumor progression by a variety of mechanisms. However, their role in the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains poorly defined. In addition, the extent to which specific proteins secreted by CAFs contribute directly to tumor growth is unclear. To study the role of CAFs in NSCLCs, a cross-species functional characterization of mouse and human lung CAFs was conducted. CAFs supported the growth of lung cancer cells in vivo by secretion of soluble factors that directly stimulate the growth of tumor cells. Gene expression analysis comparing normal mouse lung fibroblasts and mouse lung CAFs identified multiple genes that correlate with the CAF phenotype. A gene signature of secreted genes upregulated in CAFs was an independent marker of poor survival in patients with NSCLC. This secreted gene signature was upregulated in normal lung fibroblasts after long-term exposure to tumor cells, showing that lung fibroblasts are "educated" by tumor cells to acquire a CAF-like phenotype. Functional studies identified important roles for CLCF1-CNTFR and interleukin (IL)-6-IL-6R signaling in promoting growth of NSCLCs. This study identifies novel soluble factors contributing to the CAF protumorigenic phenotype in NSCLCs and suggests new avenues for the development of therapeutic strategies.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1097
View details for PubMedID 22962265