Adipose-Derived VEGF-mTOR Signaling Promotes Endometrial Hyperplasia and Cancer: Implications for Obese Women

Mol Cancer Res. 2018 Feb;16(2):309-321. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-17-0466. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Obesity is responsible for increased morbidity and mortality in endometrial cancer. Despite the positive correlation of body mass index (BMI) or obesity in endometrial carcinogenesis, the contribution of adipose tissue to the pathogenesis of endometrial hyperplasia and cancer is unclear. This study clarifies the role of adipocytes in the pathogenesis of endometrial cancer by demonstrating that adipocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) increases proliferation, migration, and survival of endometrial cancer cells compared with preadipocyte-conditioned medium (PACM). Comparative cytokine array analysis of ACM and PACM reveal upregulation of a group of cytokines belonging to the VEGF signaling pathway in ACM. VEGF protein expression is upregulated in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in obese patients, which is correlated with increased tumor growth in an in vivo xenograft model. The increased tumor size is mechanistically associated with the activation of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, a downstream target of VEGF signaling, and its suppression decreased the growth-promoting effects of VAT on endometrial cancer cells. Similar to the human model systems, pathologic changes in endometrial cells in a hyperphagic obese mouse model are associated with increased body weight and hyperactive mTOR signaling. Analysis of human tissue specimens depicts increased in tumor vasculature and VEGF-mTOR activity in obese endometrial cancer patients compared with nonobese patients. Collectively, these results provide evidence that VEGF-mTOR signaling drives endometrial cell growth leading to hyperplasia and cancer.Implications: Adipocyte-derived VEGF-mTOR signaling may be an attractive therapeutic target against endometrial cancer in obese women. Mol Cancer Res; 16(2); 309-21. ©2017 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / pathology*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Tumor Burden
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases