The close vicinity of cancer cells undergoing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) at the invasive front of tumors suggests that these two cell type may mutually interact. We show that mesenchymal-like breast cancer cells activate macrophages to a TAM-like phenotype by GM-CSF. Reciprocally, CCL18 from TAMs induces cancer cell EMT, forming a positive feedback loop, in coculture systems and humanized mice. Inhibition of GM-CSF or CCL18 breaks this loop and reduces cancer metastasis. High GM-CSF expression in breast cancer samples is associated with more CCL18(+) macrophages, cancer cell EMT, enhanced metastasis, and reduced patient survival. These findings suggest that a positive feedback loop between GM-CSF and CCL18 is important in breast cancer metastasis.
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