Despite aggressive therapies, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is associated with a less than 50% 5-year survival rate. Late-stage HNSCC frequently consists of up to 80% cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF). We previously reported that CAF-secreted HGF facilitates HNSCC progression; however, very little is known about the role of CAFs in HNSCC metabolism. Here, we demonstrate that CAF-secreted HGF increases extracellular lactate levels in HNSCC via upregulation of glycolysis. CAF-secreted HGF induced basic FGF (bFGF) secretion from HNSCC. CAFs were more efficient than HNSCC in using lactate as a carbon source. HNSCC-secreted bFGF increased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and HGF secretion from CAFs. Combined inhibition of c-Met and FGFR significantly inhibited CAF-induced HNSCC growth in vitro and in vivo (P < 0.001). Our cumulative findings underscore reciprocal signaling between CAF and HNSCC involving bFGF and HGF. This contributes to metabolic symbiosis and a targetable therapeutic axis involving c-Met and FGFR. Significance: HNSCC cancer cells and CAFs have a metabolic relationship where CAFs secrete HGF to induce a glycolytic switch in HNSCC cells and HNSCC cells secrete bFGF to promote lactate consumption by CAFs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research