How basal cell carcinoma (BCC) interacts with its tumor microenvironment to promote growth is unclear. We use singe-cell RNA sequencing to define the human BCC ecosystem and discriminate between normal and malignant epithelial cells. We identify spatial biomarkers of tumors and their surrounding stroma that reinforce the heterogeneity of each tissue type. Combining pseudotime, RNA velocity-PAGA, cellular entropy, and regulon analysis in stromal cells reveals a cancer-specific rewiring of fibroblasts, where STAT1, TGF-beta, and inflammatory signals induce a noncanonical WNT5A program that maintains the stromal inflammatory state. Cell-cell communication modeling suggests that tumors respond to the sudden burst of fibroblast-specific inflammatory signaling pathways by producing heat shock proteins, whose expression we validated in situ. Last, dose-dependent treatment with an HSP70 inhibitor suppresses in vitro vismodegib-resistant BCC cell growth, Hedgehog signaling, and in vivo tumor growth in a BCC mouse model, validating HSP70's essential role in tumor growth and reinforcing the critical nature of tumor microenvironment cross-talk in BCC progression.
View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.abm7981
View details for PubMedID 35687691