Circulating tumor cell interactions with macrophages: implications for biology and treatment
Cancer and metastasis are closely associated with inflammation. Macrophages are important effector cells in enhancing tumor proliferation, invasion and providing protection against the immune system. Despite advanced knowledge of tumor-macrophage interactions, the role of macrophages in emergence and invasion of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is not known. A series of six CTC cell lines have been derived from blood of patients with extensive disease small cell lung cancer (ED-SCLC) in our lab, most likely representing a homogenous cell population of the actual metastasis-initiating cells (MIC) of CTCs. SCLC has an unfavorable prognosis due to rapid dissemination and early chemoresistant relapses. SCLC CTCs recruit macrophages and elicit secretion of various cytokines and the six CTC lines express chitinase-3-like-1 (CHI3L1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9) in abundance. CHI3L1 is cytokine/growth factor expressed in inflammation and cancer and found to be correlated to metastasis and a dismal prognosis. In conclusion, SCLC CTCs have acquired the essential means for aggressiveness and invasion in a tumor microenvironment specifically shaped by macrophages and inflammation.