Within the tumor microenvironment, resident or recruited mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) contribute to malignant progression in multiple cancer types. Under the influence of specific environmental signals, these adult stem cells can release paracrine mediators leading to accelerated tumor growth and metastasis. Defining the crosstalk between tumor and MSCs is of primary importance to understand the mechanisms underlying cancer progression and identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
Cancer cells produce high amounts of extracellular vesicles (EVs), which can profoundly affect the behavior of target cells in the tumor microenvironment or at distant sites. Tumor EVs enclose functional biomolecules, including inflammatory RNAs and (onco)proteins, that can educate stromal cells to enhance the metastatic behavior of cancer cells or to participate in the pre-metastatic niche formation. In this article, we describe the development of a preclinical cancer mouse model that enables specific evaluation of the EV-mediated crosstalk between tumor and mesenchymal stem cells. First, we describe the purification and characterization of tumor-secreted EVs and the assessment of the EV internalization by MSCs. We then make use of a multiplex bead-based immunoassay to evaluate the alteration of the MSC cytokine expression profile induced by cancer EVs. Finally, we illustrate the generation of a bioluminescent orthotopic xenograft mouse model of osteosarcoma that recapitulates the tumor-MSC interaction, and show the contribution of EV-educated MSCs to tumor growth and metastasis formation.
Our model provides the opportunity to define how cancer EVs shape a tumor-supporting environment, and to evaluate whether blockade of the EV-mediated communication between tumor and MSCs prevents cancer progression.