Clin Cancer Res 2020 Sep 25;26(18):4970-4982. Epub 2020 Jun 25.
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Purpose: Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is frequently associated with inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor, resulting in activation of HIF-1α and HIF-2α. The current paradigm, established using mechanistic cell-based studies, supports a tumor promoting role for HIF-2α, and a tumor suppressor role for HIF-1α. However, few studies have comprehensively examined the clinical relevance of this paradigm. Furthermore, the hypoxia-associated factor (HAF), which regulates the HIFs, has not been comprehensively evaluated in ccRCC.
Experimental Design: To assess the involvement of HAF/HIFs in ccRCC, we analyzed their relationship to tumor grade/stage/outcome using tissue from 380 patients, and validated these associations using tissue from 72 additional patients and a further 57 patients treated with antiangiogenic therapy for associations with response. Further characterization was performed using single-cell mRNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), RNA- hybridization (RNA-ISH), and IHC.
Results: HIF-1α was primarily expressed in tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), whereas HIF-2α and HAF were expressed primarily in tumor cells. TAM-associated HIF-1α was significantly associated with high tumor grade and increased metastasis and was independently associated with decreased overall survival. Furthermore, elevated TAM HIF-1α was significantly associated with resistance to antiangiogenic therapy. In contrast, high HAF or HIF-2α were associated with low grade, decreased metastasis, and increased overall survival. scRNA-seq, RNA-ISH, and Western blotting confirmed the expression of HIF-1α in M2-polarized CD163-expressing TAMs.
Conclusions: These findings highlight a potential role of TAM HIF-1α in ccRCC progression and support the reevaluation of HIF-1α as a therapeutic target and marker of disease progression.