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Stimulation of angiogenesis resulting from cooperation between macrophages and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells: proposed molecular mechanism and effect of tetrathiomolybdate

Ulrich Joimel1*, Caroline Gest1, Jeannette Soria23, Linda-Louise Pritchard4, Jérôme Alexandre25, Marc Laurent1, Emmanuel Blot1, Lionel Cazin1, Jean-Pierre Vannier1, Rémi Varin1, Hong Li1 and Claudine Soria1

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratoire M.E.R.C.I - EA 3829, Faculté de Médecine et de Pharmacie, Université de Rouen, 22 Bd Gambetta, 76183 Rouen cedex, France

2 Service et Laboratoire d'Oncologie Médicale de L'Hôtel Dieu de Paris, Paris, France

3 UMRS 872 INSERM, Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6 and Université Paris Descartes, Equipe 18, Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers, Paris, France

4 Université Paris-Sud and CNRS FRE 3239, IAL, 7 rue Guy Moquet, BP8, 94801 Villejuif Cedex, France

5 Université Paris Descartes, Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu, AP-HP Paris, France

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:375  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-375

Published: 17 July 2010



Infiltration by macrophages (Mφ) indicates a poor prognosis in breast cancers, in particular by inducing angiogenesis. Our study aimed 1) to investigate the mechanism by which cooperation between Mφ and aggressive breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) induces angiogenesis; 2) to examine the effect of tetrathiomolybdate (TM) on this angiogenic activity.


Mφ coincubated with MDA-MB-231 were used as a model to mimic the inflammatory microenvironment. Angiogenesis induced by the culture media was tested in the chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM). Mφ phenotype was evaluated by 1) expression of the M1 marker CD80, and secretion of interleukin 10 (IL-10), an M2 marker; 2) capacity to secrete Tumour Necrosis Factor α (TNFα) when stimulated by lipopolysaccharide/interferon γ (LPS/IFNγ); 3) ability to induce MDA-MB-231 apoptosis. To explore the molecular mechanisms involved, cytokine profiles of conditioned media from MDA-MB-231, Mφ and the coculture were characterised by an antibody cytokine array. All experiments were carried out both in presence and in absence of TM.


Incubation of Mφ with MDA-MB-231 induced a pro-angiogenic effect in the CAM. It emerged that the angiogenic activity of the coculture is due to the capacity of Mφ to switch from M1 Mφ towards M2, probably due to an increase in Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor. This M1-M2 switch was shown by a decreased expression of CD80 upon LPS/IFNγ stimulation, an increased secretion of IL-10, a decreased secretion of TNFα in response to LPS/IFNγ and an inability to potentiate apoptosis. At the molecular level, the angiogenic activity of the coculture medium can be explained by the secretion of CXC chemokines/ELR+ and CC chemokines. Although TM did not modify either the M2 phenotype in the coculture or the profile of the secreted chemokines, it did decrease the angiogenic activity of the coculture medium, suggesting that TM inhibited angiogenic activity by interfering with the endothelial cell signalling induced by these chemokines.


Cooperation between Mφ and MDA-MB-231 transformed M1 Mφ to an angiogenic, M2 phenotype, attested by secretion of CXC chemokines/ELR+ and CC chemokines. TM inhibited this coculture-induced increase in angiogenic activity, without affecting either Mφ phenotype or cytokine secretion profiles.