Many tumors display intracellular heterogeneity with subsets of cancer stem cells (CSC) that sustain tumor growth, recurrence, and therapy resistance. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) have been shown to support and regulate CSC function. Here, we investigate the interactions between CSCs and CAFs in mammary gland tumors driven by combined activation of Wnt/β-catenin and Hgf/Met signaling in mouse mammary epithelial cells. In this setting, CSCs secrete the Hedgehog ligand SHH, which regulate CAFs via paracrine activation of Hedgehog signaling. CAFs subsequently secrete factors that promote expansion and self-renewal of CSCs. In vivo treatment of tumors with the Hedgehog inhibitor vismodegib reduce CAF and CSC expansion, resulting in an overall delay of tumor formation. Our results identify a novel intracellular signaling module that synergistically regulates CAFs and CSCs. Targeting CAFs with Hedgehog inhibitors may offer a novel therapeutic strategy against breast cancer. Cancer Res; 77(8); 2134-47. ©2017 AACR.
©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.