Recent advances in animal modeling, imaging technology, and functional genomics have permitted precise molecular observations of the metastatic process. However, a comprehensive understanding of the premetastatic niche remains elusive, owing to the limited tools that can map subtle differences in molecular mediators in organ-specific microenvironments. Here, we report the ability to detect premetastatic changes in the lung microenvironment, in response to primary breast tumors, using a combination of metastatic mouse models, Raman spectroscopy, and multivariate analysis of consistent patterns in molecular expression. We used tdTomato fluorescent protein expressing MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells of high and low metastatic potential, respectively, to grow orthotopic xenografts in athymic nude mice and allow spontaneous dissemination from the primary mammary fat pad tumor. Label-free Raman spectroscopic mapping was used to record the molecular content of premetastatic lungs. These measurements show reliable distinctions in vibrational features, characteristic of the collageneous stroma and its cross-linkers as well as proteoglycans, which uniquely identify the metastatic potential of the primary tumor by recapitulating the compositional changes in the lungs. Consistent with histological assessment and gene expression analysis, our study suggests that remodeling of the extracellular matrix components may present promising markers for objective recognition of the premetastatic niche, independent of conventional clinical information. Cancer Res; 77(2); 247-56. ©2016 AACR.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.