Both anti-tumoral and pro-tumoral effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in preclinical treatment of ovarian cancer have been controversially demonstrated. In this study, we profiled the phenotypes of mouse compact bone-derived MSCs (CB-MSCs) and bone marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs) and found that CB-MSCs expressed lower CD90 compared to BM-MSCs. We examined gene expression of immune regulating cytokines of CB-MSCs in 2D and 3D culture and under stimulation with TLR4 agonist LPS or immune activator VIC-008. Our data showed that when CB-MSCs were cultured in simulated in vivo 3D condition, CD90 expression was further decreased. Moreover, gene expressions of immune activating cytokines IL-12, IL-21, IFNγ and a pro-inflammatory cytokine CXCL10 in CB-MSCs were increased in 3D culture whereas gene expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10 and CCL5 were downregulated. Stimulation of CB-MSCs by LPS or VIC-008 presented similar profile of the cytokine gene expressions to that in 3D culture which might benefit the anti-tumor efficacy of CD90low MSCs. The anti-tumor effects of CD90low CB-MSCs alone or in combination with VIC-008 were evaluated in a syngeneic orthotopic mouse model of ovarian cancer. Treatment that combines CB-MSCs and VIC-008 significantly decreased tumor growth and prolonged mouse survival. This was associated with the increase of activated anti-tumoral CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and the decrease of Treg cells in the tumor microenvironment. Taken together, our study demonstrates the synergistic anti-tumoral efficacy by application of CB-MSCs combined with immune activator VIC-008 and provides new insight into CD90low MSCs as a new anti-tumor arsenal.
Keywords: CD90; immunotherapy; mesenchymal stem cells; ovarian cancer.