Increasing epidemiological evidence has linked the development and progression of several cancers including melanoma with obesity. However, whether obesity impinges on responses of cancer cells to treatment remains less understood. Here we report that human adipocytes contribute to resistance of melanoma cells to various therapeutic agents. Exposure to media from adipocyte cultures (adipocyte media) increased cell proliferation and reduced sensitivity of melanoma cells to apoptosis induced by diverse chemotherapeutic drugs, including the DNA-damaging drug cisplatin, the microtubule-targeting agent docetaxel, and the histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA. This was associated with increased activation of PI3K/Akt and MEK/ERK signaling, and was attenuated by a PI3K or MEK inhibitor. The effect of adipocyte media on melanoma cells was, at least in part, due to the interaction between the adipokine leptin and its long form receptor OB-Ob, in that immunodepletion of leptin in adipocyte media or siRNA knockdown of OB-Rb in melanoma cells reversed the increase in Akt and ERK activation, enhancement in cell proliferation, and importantly, protection of melanoma cells against the drugs. In support, recombinant leptin partially recapitulated the effect of adipocyte media on melanoma cells. Of note, OB-Rb was increased on the surface of melanoma cells compared to melanocytes, whereas leptin short form receptors appeared to be suppressed post-transcriptionally, suggesting that OB-Rb was selectively upregulated in melanoma cells. Collectively, these results indicate that adipocytes contribute to resistance of melanoma cells to chemotherapeutic drugs and agents targeting the PI3K/Akt and MEK/ERK pathways, and suggest that inhibition of the leptin/ OB-Rb system may be useful to improve the efficacy of multiple therapeutic approaches in the treatment of melanoma.

Citation Information: Mol Cancer Ther 2013;12(11 Suppl):B242.

Citation Format: Mengna Chi, Jiezhong Chen, Yan Ye, Hsin-Yi Tseng, Fritz Lai, Kwang Hong Tay, Lei Jin, Chen Chen Jiang, Xu Dong Zhang. Adipocytes contribute to resistance of human melanoma cells to chemotherapy and targeted therapy. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference: Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics; 2013 Oct 19-23; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Mol Cancer Ther 2013;12(11 Suppl):Abstract nr B242.