Stiffness increases with myofibroblast content and collagen density in mesenchymal high grade serous ovarian cancer
AbstractWomen diagnosed with high-grade serous ovarian cancers (HGSOC) are still likely to exhibit a bad prognosis, particularly when suffering from HGSOC of the Mesenchymal molecular subtype (50% cases). These tumors show a desmoplastic reaction with accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins and high content of cancer-associated fibroblasts. Using patient-derived xenograft mouse models of Mesenchymal and Non-Mesenchymal HGSOC, we show here that HGSOC exhibit distinct stiffness depending on their molecular subtype. Indeed, tumor stiffness strongly correlates with tumor growth in Mesenchymal HGSOC, while Non-Mesenchymal tumors remain soft. Moreover, we observe that tumor stiffening is associated with high stromal content, collagen network remodeling, and MAPK/MEK pathway activation. Furthermore, tumor stiffness accompanies a glycolytic metabolic switch in the epithelial compartment, as expected based on Warburg’s effect, but also in stromal cells. This effect is restricted to the central part of stiff Mesenchymal tumors. Indeed, stiff Mesenchymal tumors remain softer at the periphery than at the core, with stromal cells secreting high levels of collagens and showing an OXPHOS metabolism. Thus, our study suggests that tumor stiffness could be at the crossroad of three major processes, i.e. matrix remodeling, MEK activation and stromal metabolic switch that might explain at least in part Mesenchymal HGSOC aggressiveness.