Oncogenes induce the cancer-associated fibroblast phenotype: Metabolic symbiosis and "fibroblast addiction" are new therapeutic targets for drug discovery

Cell Cycle. 2013;12:2723-32
Lisanti MP, Martinez-Outschoorn UE, Sotgia F.
Date of publication: 
Sunday, 1 September 2013
Metabolic coupling, between mitochondria in cancer cells and catabolism in stromal fibroblasts, promotes tumor growth, recurrence, metastasis, and predicts anticancer drug resistance. Catabolic fibroblasts donate the necessary fuels (such as L-lactate, ketones, glutamine, other amino acids, and fatty acids) to anabolic cancer cells, to metabolize via their TCA cycle and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). This provides a simple mechanism by which metabolic energy and biomass are transferred from the host microenvironment to cancer cells. Recently, we showed that catabolic metabolism and "glycolytic reprogramming" in the tumor microenvironment are orchestrated by oncogene activation and inflammation, which originates in epithelial cancer cells. Oncogenes drive the onset of the cancer-associated fibroblast phenotype in adjacent normal fibroblasts via paracrine oxidative stress. This oncogene-induced transition to malignancy is "mirrored" by a loss of caveolin-1 (Cav-1) and an increase in MCT4 in adjacent stromal fibroblasts, functionally reflecting catabolic metabolism in the tumormicroenvironment. Virtually identical findings were obtained using BRCA1-deficient breast and ovarian cancer cells. Thus, oncogene activation (RAS, NFkB, TGF-beta) and/or tumor suppressor loss (BRCA1) have similar functional effects on adjacent stromal fibroblasts, initiating "metabolic-symbiosis" and the cancer-associated fibroblast phenotype. New therapeutic strategies that metabolically uncouple oxidative cancer cells from their glycolytic stroma or modulate oxidative stress could be used to target this lethal subtype of cancers. Targeting "fibroblast addiction" in primary and metastatic tumor cells may expose a critical Achilles' heel, leading to disease regression in both sporadic and familial cancers.