Lymph node metastasis is a pathognomonic feature of spreading tumors, and overcoming metastasis is a challenge in attaining more favorable clinical outcomes. Esophageal cancer is an aggressive tumor for which lymph node metastasis is a strong poor prognostic factor, and the tumor microenvironment (TME), and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in particular, has been implicated in esophageal cancer progression. CAFs play a central role in the TME and have been reported to provide suitable conditions for the progression of esophageal cancer, similar to their role in other malignancies. However, little is known concerning the relevance of CAFs to the lymph node metastasis of esophageal cancer. Here, we used clinical samples of esophageal cancer to reveal that CAFs promote lymph node metastasis and subsequently verified the intercellular relationships in vitro and in vivo using an orthotopic metastatic mouse model. In the analysis of clinical samples, FAP + CAFs were strongly associated with lymph node metastasis rather than with other prognostic factors. Furthermore, CAFs affected the ability of esophageal cancer cells to acquire metastatic phenotypes in vitro; this finding was confirmed by data from an in vivo orthotopic metastatic mouse model showing that the number of lymph node metastases increased upon injection of cocultured cancer cells and CAFs. In summary, we verified in vitro and in vivo that the accumulation of CAFs enhances the lymph node metastasis of ESCC. Our data suggest that CAF targeted therapy can reduce lymph node metastasis and improve the prognosis of patients with esophageal cancer in the future.
- cancer-associated fibroblasts
- fibroblast activation protein (FAP)
- lymph node metastasis
- orthotopic mouse model
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research