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Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) secrete various pro-tumorigenic cytokines, yet the role of these cytokines in the progression of endometrial cancer remains unclear. We found that CAFs isolated from human endometrial cancer (EC) tissues secreted high levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which promotes EC cell proliferation in vitro. Neutralizing IL-6 in CAF-conditioned media reduced (47% inhibition) while IL-6 recombinant protein increased cell proliferation (~2.4 fold) of both EC cell lines and primary cultures. IL-6 receptors (IL-6R and gp130) were expressed only in EC epithelial cells but not in CAF, indicating a one-way paracrine signaling. In the presence of CAF-conditioned media, Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK/STAT3) pathway was activated in EC cells. Treatment with JAK and STAT3 specific inhibitors, AD412 and STATTIC, respectively, significantly abrogated CAF-mediated cell proliferation, indicating the role of IL-6 activation in EC cell proliferation. We further showed that one of STAT-3 target genes, c-Myc, was highly induced in EC cells after exposure to CAF-conditioned medium at both mRNA (>105-fold vs. control) and protein level (>2-fold vs. control). EC cell proliferation was dependent on c-Myc expression, as RNAi-mediated c-Myc down-regulation led to a significant 46% reduction in cell viability when compared with scrambled control. Interestingly, CAF-conditioned media failed to promote proliferation in EC cells with reduced c-Myc expression, suggesting that CAF-mediated cell proliferation was also dependent on c-Myc expression. Subcutaneous tumor xenograft model showed that EC cells grew at least 1.4 times larger when co-injected with CAF, when compared to those injected with EC cells alone. Mice injected with EC cells with down-regulated c-Myc expression, however, showed at least 2.5 times smaller tumor compared to those in control group. Notably, there was no increase of tumor size when co-injected with CAFs. Further immunohistochemical staining on human tissues showed positive expression of IL-6 receptors, phosphorylated-STAT3 and c-Myc in human EC tissues with less signals in benign endometrium. Taken together, our data suggests that IL-6 secreted by CAF induces c-Myc expression to promote EC proliferation in vitro and in vivo. IL-6 pathway can be a potential target to disrupt tumor-stroma interaction in endometrial cancer progression.


Journal article


Am J Cancer Res

Publication Date





200 - 213


JAK/STAT3, Uterine cancer, c-Myc activation, cytokine actions, epithelial-stroma interaction, tumor microenvironment