Open Access Research article

Platelet-activating factor receptor (PAF-R)-dependent pathways control tumour growth and tumour response to chemotherapy

Soraya I de Oliveira1, Luciana NS Andrade2, Ana C Onuchic2, Sueli Nonogaki4, Patrícia D Fernandes3, Mônica C Pinheiro2, Ciro BS Rohde2, Roger Chammas2 and Sonia Jancar1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2 Department of Radiology, University of Sao Paulo Medical School, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

3 Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

4 Adolfo Lutz Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:200  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-200

Published: 13 May 2010



Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages induces a suppressor phenotype. Previous data from our group suggested that this occurs via Platelet-activating factor receptor (PAF-R)-mediated pathways. In the present study, we investigated the impact of apoptotic cell inoculation or induction by a chemotherapeutic agent (dacarbazine, DTIC) on tumour growth, microenvironmental parameters and survival, and the effect of treatment with a PAF-R antagonist (WEB2170). These studies were performed in murine tumours: Ehrlich Ascitis Tumour (EAT) and B16F10 melanoma.


Tumour growth was assessed by direct counting of EAT cells in the ascitis or by measuring the volume of the solid tumour. Parameters of the tumour microenvironment, such as the frequency of cells expressing cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2), caspase-3 and galectin-3, and microvascular density, were determined by immunohistochemistry. Levels of vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) were determined by ELISA, and levels of nitric oxide (NO) by Griess reaction. PAF-R expression was analysed by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry.


Inoculation of apoptotic cells before EAT implantation stimulated tumour growth. This effect was reversed by in vivo pre-treatment with WEB2170. This treatment also reduced tumour growth and modified the microenvironment by reducing PGE2, VEGF and NO production. In B16F10 melanoma, WEB2170 alone or in association with DTIC significantly reduced tumour volume. Survival of the tumour-bearing mice was not affected by WEB2170 treatment but was significantly improved by the combination of DTIC with WEB2170. Tumour microenvironment elements were among the targets of the combination therapy since the relative frequency of COX-2 and galectin-3 positive cells and the microvascular density within the tumour mass were significantly reduced by treatment with WEB2170 or DTIC alone or in combination. Antibodies to PAF-R stained the cells from inside the tumour, but not the tumour cells grown in vitro. At the tissue level, a few cells (probably macrophages) stained positively with antibodies to PAF-R.


We suggest that PAF-R-dependent pathways are activated during experimental tumour growth, modifying the microenvironment and the phenotype of the tumour macrophages in such a way as to favour tumour growth. Combination therapy with a PAF-R antagonist and a chemotherapeutic drug may represent a new and promising strategy for the treatment of some tumours.