Current treatments for clear cell renal cell cancer (ccRCC) are insufficient because two-thirds of patients with metastases progress within two years. Here we report the identification and characterization of a cancer stem cell (CSC) population in ccRCC. CSCs are quantitatively correlated with tumor aggressiveness and metastasis. Transcriptional profiling and single cell sequencing reveal that these CSCs exhibit an activation of WNT and NOTCH signaling. A significant obstacle to the development of rational treatments has been the discrepancy between model systems and the in vivo situation of patients. To address this, we use CSCs to establish non-adherent sphere cultures, 3D tumor organoids, and xenografts. Treatment with WNT and NOTCH inhibitors blocks the proliferation and self-renewal of CSCs in sphere cultures and organoids, and impairs tumor growth in patient-derived xenografts in mice. These findings suggest that our approach is a promising route towards the development of personalized treatments for individual patients.
The cancer stem cell (CSC) model has recently been approached also in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). A few populations of putative renal tumor-initiating cells (TICs) were identified, but they are indifferently understood; however, the first and most thoroughly investigated are CD105-positive CSCs. The article presents a detailed comparison of all renal CSC-like populations identified by now as well as their presumable origin. Hypoxic activation of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) contributes to tumor aggressiveness by multiple molecular pathways, including the governance of immature stem cell-like phenotype and related epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)/de-differentiation, and, as a result, poor prognosis. Due to intrinsic von Hippel-Lindau protein (pVHL) loss of function, clear-cell RCC (ccRCC) develops unique pathological intra-cellular pseudo-hypoxic phenotype with a constant HIF activation, regardless of oxygen level. Despite satisfactory evidence concerning pseudo-hypoxia importance in RCC biology, its influence on putative renal CSC-like largely remains unknown. Thus, the article discusses a current knowledge of HIF-1α/2α signaling pathways in the promotion of undifferentiated tumor phenotype in general, including some experimental findings specific for pseudo-hypoxic ccRCC, mostly dependent from HIF-2α oncogenic functions. Existing gaps in understanding both putative renal CSCs and their potential connection with hypoxia need to be filled in order to propose breakthrough strategies for RCC treatment.
BackgroundCD105 was postulated as a renal cell carcinoma (RCC) stem cell marker, and CD133 as a putative RCC progenitor. Hypoxia, a natural microenvironment that prevails in tumors, was also incorporated into the study, especially in terms of the promotion of hypothetical stem-like cell properties.MethodsWithin this study, we verify the existence of CD105+ and CD133+ populations in selected papillary subtype RCC (pRCC) cell lines. Both populations were analyzed for correlation with stem-like cell properties, such as stemness gene expression, and sphere and colony formation. For the preliminary analysis, several RCC cell lines were chosen (786-O, SMKT-R2, Caki-2, 796-P, ACHN, RCC6) and the control was human kidney cancer stem cells (HKCSC) and renal cells of embryonic origin (ASE-5063). Four cell lines were chosen for further investigation: Caki-2 (one of the highest numbers of CD105+ cells; primary origin), ACHN (a low number of CD105+ cells; metastatic origin), HKCSC (putative positive control), and ASE-5063 (additional control).ResultsIn 769-P and RCC6, we could not detect a CD105+ population. Hypoxia variously affects pRCC cell growth, and mainly diminishes the stem-like properties of cells. Furthermore, we could not observe the correlation of CD105 and/or CD133 expression with the enhancement of stem-like properties.ConclusionsBased on this analysis, CD105/CD133 cannot be validated as cancer stem cell markers of pRCC cell lines.
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