Molecular profiling of a lethal tumor microenvironment, as defined by stromal caveolin-1 status in breast cancers

Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, Jessica Kline, Maria Queenan, Jonathan R. Brody, Aristotelis Tsirigos, Erhan Bilal, Stephanos Pavlides, Adam Ertel, Federica Sotgia, Michael P. Lisanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Breast cancer progression and metastasis are driven by complex and reciprocal interactions, between epithelial cancer cells and their surrounding stromal microenvironment. We have previously shown that a loss of stromal Cav-1 expression is associated with an increased risk of early tumor recurrence, metastasis and decreased overall survival. to identify and characterize the signaling pathways that are activated in Cav-1 negative tumor stroma, we performed gene expression profiling using laser microdissected breast cancer-associated stroma. Tumor stroma was laser capture microdissected from 4 cases showing high stromal Cav-1 expression and 7 cases with loss of stromal Cav-1. Briefly, we identified 238 gene transcripts that were upregulated and 232 gene transcripts that were downregulated in the stroma of tumors showing a loss of Cav-1 expression (p ≤ 0.01 and fold-change ≥1.5). Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed "stemness," inflammation, DNA damage, aging, oxidative stress, hypoxia, autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction in the tumor stroma of patients lacking stromal Cav-1. Our findings are consistent with the recently proposed "Reverse Warburg Effect" and the "Autophagic Tumor Stroma Model of Cancer Metabolism." In these two complementary models, cancer cells induce oxidative stress in adjacent stromal cells, which then forces these stromal fibroblasts to undergo autophagy/ mitophagy and aerobic glycolysis. This, in turn, produces recycled nutrients (lactate, ketones and glutamine) to feed anabolic cancer cells, which are undergoing oxidative mitochondrial metabolism. Our results are also consistent with previous biomarker studies showing that the increased expression of known autophagy markers (such as ATG16L and the cathepsins) in the tumor stroma is specifically associated with metastatic tumor progression and/or poor clinical outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1794-1809
Number of pages16
JournalCell Cycle
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


  • Aging
  • Biomarkers
  • Breast cancer
  • Caveolin-1
  • Clinical outcome
  • Gene signatures
  • Metastasis
  • Recurrence
  • Transcriptional profiling
  • Tumor stroma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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