Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Raghu Kalluri

Committee Member

Valerie LeBleu

Committee Member

Menasche Bar Eli

Committee Member

Jonathan Kurie

Committee Member

Laura Beretta


The solid tumor microenvironment, pre-metastatic niche, and fibrotic environment are known to have significant biochemical and biomechanical similarities to the fibrotic environment. All have significantly increased levels of factors such as TGFβ, HIF1α, TNFα, PDGF, VEGF, FGF, interleukins and other growth factors that are known to be pro-tumorigenic. Clinical and basic science research has shown that fibrosis presents an environment that favors tumor growth, such as hepatocellular carcinoma being commonly preceded by liver cirrhosis, or bleomycin induced lung fibrosis enhancing pulmonary metastasis in mouse models of breast cancer. In addition to the evidence indicating that fibrosis enhances primary tumor growth and metastasis it is also well characterized that primary tumor metastasis has specific organotropism, for example breast cancer commonly spreads to the lungs, brain, bone, liver and lymph nodes. However, whether non-organtropic fibrosis can redirect metastasis to the damaged organ has not been investigated.

To elucidate the fibrotic effect on tumor organotropism we induced fibrosis in the organotropic lungs and in the non-organotropic kidney of two mouse models of breast cancer, the 4T1 murine cancer cell line model and the genetic MMTV-Pymt model, both of which are known to metastasize. Using histopathology, microarrays, gene expression by polymerase chain reaction, ELISA, chemokine array, and in vitro experiments we demonstrate that despite the pro-tumorigenic environment, kidney fibrosis does not redirect metastasis to the non-organotropic damaged organ. However, mice with kidney fibrosis had increased metastasis to their lungs. Furthermore, we found that kidney fibrosis increases the circulating levels of the pro-angiogenic factor Angiopoietin 2 that increased vascular permeability of the lungs, but not the kidneys. In fact, while fibrotic lungs showed decreased expression of endothelial tight gap junction protein Claudin-5, the fibrotic kidneys had an elevated expression of Claudin-5.

Our findings suggest that despite the similarities between fibrosis, the tumor microenvironment and the pre-metastatic niche, that while it can enhance tropic metastatic disease, it cannot redirect organotropism indicating that other factors must be involved in directing organotropism. Here we report that tumor organotropism may be a result of organ specific vascular responses to excess circulating factors and increased fibrotic factors. These findings indicate that organotropism is directly related to and as a result of organ specific vascular alterations.



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