Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 02 22;116(6):2237-2242. Epub 2019 Jan 22.
Laboratory for Experimental Oncology and Radiobiology, Center for Experimental and Molecular Medicine, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Cancer Center Amsterdam, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands;
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) has a dismal prognosis, and survival benefits of recent multimodality treatments remain small. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are known to contribute to poor outcome by conferring therapy resistance to various cancer types, but this has not been explored in EAC. Importantly, a targeted strategy to circumvent CAF-induced resistance has yet to be identified. By using EAC patient-derived CAFs, organoid cultures, and xenograft models we identified IL-6 as the stromal driver of therapy resistance in EAC. IL-6 activated epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in cancer cells, which was accompanied by enhanced treatment resistance, migratory capacity, and clonogenicity. Inhibition of IL-6 restored drug sensitivity in patient-derived organoid cultures and cell lines. Analysis of patient gene expression profiles identified ADAM12 as a noninflammation-related serum-borne marker for IL-6-producing CAFs, and serum levels of this marker predicted unfavorable responses to neoadjuvant chemoradiation in EAC patients. These results demonstrate a stromal contribution to therapy resistance in EAC. This signaling can be targeted to resensitize EAC to therapy, and its activity can be measured using serum-borne markers.