Survival of dormant, disseminated breast cancer cells contributes to tumor relapse and metastasis. Women with a body mass index greater than 35 have an increased risk of developing metastatic recurrence. Herein, we investigated the effect of diet-induced obesity (DIO) on primary tumor growth and metastatic progression using both metastatic and systemically dormant mouse models of breast cancer. This approach led to increased PT growth and pulmonary metastasis. We developed a novel protocol to induce obesity in Balb/c mice by combining dietary and hormonal interventions with a thermoneutral housing strategy. In contrast to standard housing conditions, ovariectomized Balb/c mice fed a high-fat diet under thermoneutral conditions became obese over a period of 10 weeks, resulting in a 250% gain in fat mass. Obese mice injected with the D2.OR model developed macroscopic pulmonary nodules compared with the dormant phenotype of these cells in mice fed a control diet. Analysis of the serum from obese Balb/c mice revealed increased levels of FGF2 as compared with lean mice. We demonstrate that serum from obese animals, exogenous FGF stimulation, or constitutive stimulation through autocrine and paracrine FGF2 is sufficient to break dormancy and drive pulmonary outgrowth. Blockade of FGFR signaling or specific depletion of FGFR1 prevented obesity-associated outgrowth of the D2.OR model.


Overall, this study developed a novel DIO model that allowed for demonstration of FGF2:FGFR1 signaling as a key molecular mechanism connecting obesity to breakage of systemic tumor dormancy and metastatic progression.

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