Surveillance of spontaneous breast cancer metastasis by TRAIL-expressing CD34+ cells in a xenograft model

Anna Rossini, Marta Giussani, Arianna Giacomini, Carla Guarnotta, Elda Tagliabue, Andrea Balsari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), delivered as a membrane-bound molecule expressed on the surface of adenovirus-transduced CD34+ cells (CD34-TRAIL+), was analyzed for its apoptotic activity in vitro on 12 breast cancer cell lines representing estrogen receptor-positive, HER2+ and triplenegative (TN) subtypes and for its effect on tumor growth, vascularization, necrosis, and lung metastasis incidence in NOD/SCID mice xenografted with the TN breast cancer line MDA-MB-231. Mesenchymal TN cell lines, which are the richest in putative tumor stem cells among the different breast cancer cell subtypes, were the most susceptible to apoptosis induced by CD34-TRAIL+ cells. Indeed, tumor cell "stemness", assessed based on the proportion of CD44?/ CD24-/low cells, was significantly correlated with susceptibility to TRAIL. Moreover, in vitro cytotoxicity experiments showed that CD34-TRAIL+ cells selectively targeted CD44+/CD24-/low cells. Although in vivo treatment with CD34-TRAIL+ cells did not lead to tumor growth inhibition, treated mice revealed significantly larger areas of necrosis associated with damage of tumor vasculature than did control mice. Moreover, lungs from MDA-MD-231 tumorbearing mice were completely free of metastases at 12 days after the last injection of CD34-TRAIL+ cells, whereas metastases were present in all control mouse lungs. An antimetastatic effect of CD34-TRAIL+ cells was also observed in a model of experimental lung metastases. The correlation between in vitro susceptibility to membrane-bound TRAIL and tumor stem cell content, together with CD34-TRAIL+ cell-induced inhibition of the metastatic process, points to the selective targeting of cancer stem cells by CD34-armed cells and the potential value of such cells in eradicating tumor stem cells before the onset of overt metastases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-467
Number of pages11
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Metastasis
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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