Breast cancer recurrence rates vary following treatment, suggesting that tumor cells disseminate early from primary sites but remain indolent indefinitely before progressing to symptomatic disease. The reasons why some indolent disseminated tumors erupt into overt disease are unknown. We discovered a novel process by which certain luminal breast cancer cells and patient tumor specimens (LBC "instigators") establish a systemic macroenvironment that supports outgrowth of otherwise-indolent disseminated tumors ("responders"). Instigating LBCs secrete cytokines that are absorbed by platelets, which are recruited to responding tumor sites where they aid vessel formation. Instigator-activated bone marrow cells (BMCs) enrich responding tumor cell expression of CD24, an adhesion molecule for platelets, and provide a source of VEGFR2+ tumor vessel cells. This cascade results in growth of responder adenocarcinomas and is abolished when platelet activation is inhibited by aspirin. These findings highlight the macroenvironment as an important component of disease progression that can be exploited therapeutically.
- Received May 14, 2012.
- Revision received July 17, 2012.
- Accepted August 13, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012, American Association for Cancer Research.