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Cancer Res. 2007 Dec 15;67(24):11687-95.

Tumor irradiation increases the recruitment of circulating mesenchymal stem cells into the tumor microenvironment.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) migrate to and proliferate within sites of inflammation and tumors as part of the tissue remodeling process. Radiation increases the expression of inflammatory mediators that could enhance the recruitment of MSC into the tumor microenvironment. To investigate this, bilateral murine 4T1 breast carcinomas (expressing renilla luciferase) were irradiated unilaterally (1 or 2 Gy). Twenty-four hours later, 2 x 10(5) MSC-expressing firefly luciferase were injected i.v. Mice were then monitored with bioluminescent imaging for expression of both renilla (tumor) and firefly (MSC) luciferase. Forty-eight hours postirradiation, levels of MSC engraftment were 34% higher in tumors receiving 2 Gy (P = 0.004) than in the contralateral unirradiated limb. Immunohistochemical staining of tumor sections from mice treated unilaterally with 2 Gy revealed higher levels of MSC in the parenchyma of radiated tumors, whereas a higher proportion of MSC remained vasculature-associated in unirradiated tumors. To discern the potential mediators involved in MSC attraction, in vitro migration assays showed a 50% to 80% increase in MSC migration towards conditioned media from 1 to 5 Gy-irradiated 4T1 cells compared with unirradiated 4T1 cells. Irradiated 4T1 cells had increased expression of the cytokines, transforming growth factor-beta1, vascular endothelial growth factor, and platelet-derived growth factor-BB, and this up-regulation was confirmed by immunohistochemistry in tumors irradiated in vivo. Interestingly, the chemokine receptor CCR2 was found to be up-regulated in MSC exposed to irradiated tumor cells and inhibition of CCR2 led to a marked decrease of MSC migration in vitro. In conclusion, clinically relevant low doses of irradiation increase the tropism for and engraftment of MSC in the tumor microenvironment.

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