Head and Neck Cancer Metastasis and the Effect of the Local Soluble Factors, from the Microenvironment, on Signalling Pathways: Is It All about the Akt?

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Jul 28;12(8):E2093. doi: 10.3390/cancers12082093.


The signalling pathways involved in metastasis of oral adenoid cancer cells (TYS) in response to cancer-associated fibroblasts (COM D24) and normal oral mucosal fibroblasts (MM1) was examined. Metastatic cell behaviour was observed by cell-scatter, 3-D-collagen gel migration, and 3-D-spheroid invasion assays. Akt (v-Akt murine thymoma viral oncogene), MAPK(Mitogen activated protein kinase), EGFR (Epidermal growth factor receptor), TGFβRI (Transforming growth factor beta receptor 1), and CXCR4

(C-X-C chemokine receptor 4) inhibitors were used to identify the signalling pathways involved. Signalling pathway protein expression and activation were assessed by SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. COM-CM (conditioned medium from COM D24 cells) and MM1-CM (conditioned medium from MM1 cells) stimulated cancer cell scattering, which was blocked only by the Akt inhibitor. COM-CM-induced scattered cancer cells showed higher levels of Akt phosphorylation than the negative control and MM1-CM. Migration and invasion of TYS cells into collagen gels from the spheroids was stimulated by CM from both fibroblast cell lines, compared to the negative control. COM cells stimulated TYS invasion into the collagen more than MM1 and the control. Akt and EGFR inhibitors effectively blocked CM and COM cell-induced invasion. Akt-silenced cancer cells were not stimulated to migrate and invade by fibroblast-CM and did not survive the addition of an EGFR inhibitor. This suggests that CAFs stimulate head and neck cancer cell migration and invasion in an Akt- dependent manner. Akt may represent a potential target for inhibitor design to treat metastatic head and neck cancer.