Inhibition of EphA3 Expression in Tumour Stromal Cells Suppresses Tumour Growth and Progression

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Sep 20;15(18):4646. doi: 10.3390/cancers15184646.


Tumour progression relies on interactions with untransformed cells in the tumour microenvironment (TME), including cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), which promote blood supply, tumour progression, and immune evasion. Eph receptor tyrosine kinases are cell guidance receptors that are most active during development but re-emerge in cancer and are recognised drug targets. EphA3 is overexpressed in a wide range of tumour types, and we previously found expression particularly in stromal and vascular tissues of the TME. To investigate its role in the TME, we generated transgenic mice with inducible shRNA-mediated knockdown of EphA3 expression. EphA3 knockdown was confirmed in aortic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which displayed reduced angiogenic capacity. In mice with syngeneic lung tumours, EphA3 knockdown reduced vasculature and CAF/MSC-like cells in tumours, and inhibited tumour growth, which was confirmed also in a melanoma model. Single cell RNA sequencing analysis of multiple human tumour types confirmed EphA3 expression in CAFs, including in breast cancer, where EphA3 was particularly prominent in perivascular- and myofibroblast-like CAFs. Our results thus indicate expression of the cell guidance receptor EphA3 in distinct CAF subpopulations is important in supporting tumour angiogenesis and tumour growth, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic target.

Keywords: Eph receptor; cancer-associated fibroblast; tumour angiogenesis; tumour microenvironment; tumour stroma.