Targeting the temporal dynamics of hypoxia-induced tumor-secreted factors halts tumor migration

Manjulata Singh, Xiao Jun Tian, Vera S. Donnenberg, Alan M. Watson, Jing Yu Zhang, Laura P. Stabile, Simon C. Watkins, Jianhua Xing, Shilpa Sant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Targeting microenvironmental factors that foster migratory cell phenotypes is a promising strategy for halting tumor migration. However, lack of mechanistic understanding of the emergence of migratory phenotypes impedes pharmaceutical drug development. Using our three-dimensional microtumor model with tight control over tumor size, we recapitulated the tumor size–induced hypoxic microenvironment and emergence of migratory phenotypes in microtumors from epithelial breast cells and patient-derived primary metastatic breast cancer cells, mesothelioma cells, and lung cancer xenograft cells. The microtumor models from various patient-derived tumor cells and patient-derived xenograft cells revealed upregulation of tumor-secreted factors, including matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9), fibronectin (FN), and soluble E-cadherin, consistent with clinically reported elevated levels of FN and MMP9 in patient breast tumors compared with healthy mammary glands. Secreted factors in the conditioned media of large microtumors induced a migratory phenotype in nonhypoxic, nonmigratory small microtumors. Subsequent mathematical analyses identified a two-stage microtumor progression and migration mechanism whereby hypoxia induces a migratory phenotype in the initialization stage, which then becomes self-sustained through a positive feedback loop established among the tumor-secreted factors. Computational and experimental studies showed that inhibition of tumor-secreted factors effectively halts microtumor migration despite tumor-to-tumor variation in migration kinetics, while inhibition of hypoxia is effective only within a time window and is compromised by tumor-to-tumor variation, supporting our notion that hypoxia initiates migratory phenotypes but does not sustain it. In summary, we show that targeting temporal dynamics of evolving microenvironments, especially tumor-secreted factors during tumor progression, can halt tumor migration. Significance: This study uses state-of-the-art three-dimensional microtumor models and computational approaches to highlight the temporal dynamics of tumor-secreted microenvironmental factors in inducing tumor migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2962-2977
Number of pages16
JournalCancer Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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