Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are abundant stromal cells in tumor microenvironment that are critically involved in cancer progression. Contrasting reports have shown that CAFs can have either pro- or antitumorigenic roles, indicating that CAFs are functionally heterogeneous. Therefore, to precisely target the cancer-promoting CAF subsets, it is necessary to identify specific markers to define these subpopulations and understand their functions. We characterized two CAFs subsets from 28 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patient tumors that were scored and classified based on desmoplasia [mainly characterized by proliferating CAFs; high desmoplastic CAFs (HD-CAF; n = 15) and low desmoplastic CAFs (LD-CAF; n = 13)], which is an independent prognostic factor. Here, for the first time, we demonstrate that HD-CAFs and LD-CAFs show different tumor-promoting abilities. HD-CAFs showed higher rate of collagen matrix remodeling, invasion, and tumor growth compared to LD-CAFs. Transcriptomic analysis identified 13 genes that were differentially significant (fold ≥1.5; adjusted P value < .1) between HD-CAFs and LD-CAFs. The top upregulated differentially expressed gene, ST8SIA2 (11.3 fold; adjusted P value = .02), enhanced NSCLC tumor cell invasion in 3D culture compared to control when it was overexpressed in CAFs, suggesting an important role of ST8SIA2 in cancer cell invasion. We confirmed the protumorigenic role of ST8SIA2, showing that ST8SIA2 was significantly associated with the risk of relapse in three independent NSCLC clinical datasets. In summary, our studies show that functional heterogeneity in CAF plays key role in promoting cancer cell invasion in NSCLC.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.