Transdifferentiation (or activation) of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) to myofibroblasts is a key event in liver fibrosis. Activated HSCs in the tumor microenvironment reportedly promote tumor progression. This study analyzed the effect of an inhibitor of HSC activation, retinol-binding protein–albumin domain III fusion protein (R-III), on protumorigenic functions of HSCs. Although conditioned medium collected from activated HSCs enhanced the migration, invasion, and proliferation of the hepatocellular carcinoma cell line Hepa-1c1c7, this effect was not observed in Hepa-1c1c7 cells treated with conditioned medium from R-III–exposed HSCs. In a subcutaneous tumor model, larger tumors with increased vascular density were formed in mice transplanted with Hepa-1c1c7+HSC than in mice transplanted with Hepa-1c1c7 cells alone. Intriguingly, when Hepa-1c1c7+HSC–transplanted mice were injected intravenously with R-III, a reduction in vascular density and extended tumor necrosis were observed. In an orthotopic tumor model, co-transplantation of HSCs enhanced tumor growth, angiogenesis, and regional metastasis accompanied by increased peritumoral lymphatic vessel density, which was abolished by R-III. In vitro study showed that R-III treatment affected the synthesis of pro-angiogenic and anti-angiogenic factors in activated HSCs, which might be the potential mechanism underlying the R-III effect. These findings suggest that the inhibition of HSC activation abrogates HSC-induced tumor angiogenesis and growth, which represents an attractive therapeutic strategy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine