The interaction between pancreatic cancer cells and pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), a major profibrogenic cell type in the pancreas, is receiving increasing attention. There is accumulating evidence that PSCs promote the progression of pancreatic cancer by increasing cancer cell proliferation and invasion as well as by protecting them from radiation- and gemcitabine-induced apoptosis. Recent studies have identified that a portion of cancer cells, called "cancer stem cells", within the entire cancer tissue harbor highly tumorigenic and chemo-resistant phenotypes, which lead to the recurrence after surgery or re-growth of the tumor. The mechanisms that maintain the "stemness" of these cells remain largely unknown. We hypothesized that PSCs might enhance the cancer stem cell-like phenotypes in pancreatic cancer cells. Indirect co-culture of pancreatic cancer cells with PSCs enhanced the spheroid-forming ability of cancer cells and induced the expression of cancer stem cell-related genes ABCG2, Nestin and LIN28. In addition, co-injection of PSCs enhanced tumorigenicity of pancreatic cancer cells in vivo. These results suggested a novel role of PSCs as a part of the cancer stem cell niche.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.