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Cancer Res. 2012 Jan 15;72(2):537-47. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-1678. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Hyaluronan synthase HAS2 promotes tumor progression in bone by stimulating the interaction of breast cancer stem-like cells with macrophages and stromal cells.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, Illinois 62794, USA.


The molecular mechanisms that operate within the organ microenvironment to support metastatic progression remain unclear. Here, we report that upregulation of hyaluronan synthase 2 (HAS2) occurs in highly metastatic breast cancer stem-like cells (CSC) defined by CD44(+)/CD24(-)/ESA(+) phenotype, where it plays a critical role in the generation of a prometastatic microenvironment in breast cancer. HAS2 was critical for the interaction of CSCs with tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), leading to enhanced secretion of platelet-derived growth factor-BB from TAMs, which then activated stromal cells and enhanced CSC self-renewal. Loss of HAS2 in CSCs or treatment with 4-methylumbelliferone, an inhibitor of HAS, which blocks hyaluronan production, drastically reduced the incidence and growth of metastatic lesions in vitro or in vivo, respectively. Taken together, our findings show a critical role of HAS2 in the development of a prometastatic microenvironment and suggest that HAS2 inhibitors can act as antimetastatic agents that disrupt a paracrine growth factor loop within this microenvironment.

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