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Cell Death Differ. 2009 May;16(5):664-73. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.190. Epub 2009 Jan 9.

Chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CCR7 promote metastasis by preventing anoikis in cancer cells.

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School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


Chemokine receptors are essential mediators of the metastatic spread in various cancer types; however their precise function in the development of secondary tumors remains poorly understood. We report here a novel property of the chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CCR7 in inhibiting detachment-induced cell death--anoikis, which is believed to be one of the major blocks in the metastatic spread of various neoplasms. Activation of these chemokine receptors by their respective ligands, CXCL12 and CCL21 specifically reduced the sensitivity of metastatic breast cancer cells to anoikis by a distinct mechanism of selective regulation of pro-apoptotic Bmf and anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL proteins. Consequently, functional CXCR4 and CCR7 increased cell survival in the absence of correct ECM attachment both in vitro and in vivo. We also demonstrated that preventing chemokine-induced reduction in Bmf levels significantly attenuated breast cancer metastasis in an experimental mouse model. These results provide evidence for a previously unknown axis in malignant tumors, which connects chemokine receptors with deregulated apoptosis in the absence of the appropriate cell--ECM interaction and may offer novel targets for therapeutic intervention for the treatment of metastatic breast and potentially other tumors.

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