Role of tumor-derived fibroblasts in the growth of primary cultures of human breast-cancer cells: effects of epidermal growth factor and the somatostatin analogue octreotide

Published on Tuesday, 01 July 2014


In the present study we have investigated the role of human breast-cancer-derived fibroblasts in the proliferation of primary cultures of epithelial cells derived from the same tumor. For this purpose, a co-culture system, using Transwell tissue-culture inserts with microporous membranes was employed.

Fibroblasts and epithelial cells were enriched according to differences in their density on Percoll density gradients. The co-culture system was first established using MCF-7 breast cancer cells and a human fibroblast line (HF cells). Insulin, 17 beta-estradiol, EGF and HF cells all significantly stimulated the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. The stimulatory effects of insulin, E2 and EGF were additive to the stimulatory effect of HF cells.

These data suggest that (unique) factor(s), other than the above-mentioned growth-promoting compounds, are responsible for the growth-promoting effects of fibroblasts. In half of the human breast cancers investigated, tumor-derived fibroblasts stimulated tumor-derived epithelial cell proliferation.

EGF significantly stimulated epithelial cell proliferation in 4 out of 6 cultures. The stimulatory effects of fibroblasts and EGF were additive or synergistic, and were observed in the additional presence of FCS, again suggesting production of unique factor(s) by the fibroblasts.

In one culture the fibroblasts significantly inhibited epithelial tumor-cell proliferation. Conversely, the epithelial cells significantly stimulated proliferation of fibroblasts in 3 out of 3 cultures.

The somatostatin analogue octreotide significantly inhibited epithelial cell proliferation by 46% in one tumor-cell culture in the absence, but not in the presence, of fibroblasts. In one culture, octreotide significantly inhibited the proliferation of fibroblasts co-cultured with epithelial cells.



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