Incidence of cachexia is highly prevalent in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC); advanced disease stage directly correlates with decreased muscle and fat mass in PDAC patients. The pancreatic tumor microenvironment is central to the release of systemic factors that govern lipolysis, proteolysis, and muscle and fat degeneration leading to the cachectic phenotype in cancer patients. The current study explores the role of macrophages, a key immunosuppressive player in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment, in regulating cancer cachexia. We observed a negative correlation between CD163-positive macrophage infiltration and muscle-fiber cross sectional area in human PDAC patients. To investigate the role of macrophages in myodegeneration, we utilized conditioned media transplant assays and orthotopic models of PDAC-induced cachexia in immune-competent mice with and without macrophage depletion. We observed that macrophage-derived conditioned medium, in combination with tumor cell-conditioned medium, promoted muscle atrophy through STAT3 signaling. Furthermore, macrophage depletion attenuated systemic inflammation and muscle wasting in pancreatic tumor-bearing mice. Targeting macrophage-mediated STAT3 activation or macrophage-derived interleukin-1 alpha or interleukin-6 diminished myofiber atrophy. Taken together, the current study identified the critical association between macrophages and cachexia phenotype in pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: Cancer cachexia; IL-6; Macrophages; Pancreatic cancer; STAT3.
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