More than half of the colorectal cancer (CRC) patients will develop liver metastasis that underlies the cancer mortality. In the hepatic tumor microenvironment, the interplay between CRC cells and hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), and the activation of HSCs to become carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) will further promote the cancer development. Nevertheless, the critical signaling molecule that involved in these processes remains unknown, which hinders the development of effective therapeutic agents for the treatment of metastatic CRC (mCRC).
Conditioned medium system and co-cultured system were used to examine the interplay between CRC cells and HSCs. Luminex liquid suspension chip detection and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were used to screen for the mediators in the conditioned medium that facilitated the CRC-HSCs interplay and HSCs-to-CAFs differentiation. Cell and animal models were used to examine whether brevilin A inhibited CRC liver metastasis via the VEGF-IL6-STAT3 axis.
In the CRC-HSCs interplay, CRC promoted HSCs-to-CAFs differentiation by releasing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF); and HSCs released interleukin 6 (IL6) that activated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in the CRC and hence increased the cancer metastatic potential. The functions of the VEGF-IL6-STAT3 axis in the HSCs-CRC interplay were further validated by VEGF recombinant protein and IL6 neutralizing antibody. More importantly, brevilin A, an active compound isolated from Centipeda minima (L.) A. Br. et Aschers, targeted the VEGF-IL6-STAT3 axis in the CRC-HSCs interplay, hence significantly inhibited colorectal liver metastasis and cancer growth both in vitro and in vivo.
We are the first to demonstrate brevilin A possesses potent anti-mCRC effect by targeting the VEGF-IL6-STAT3 axis in the CRC-HSCs interplay. Our findings not only support the development of brevilin A as a novel therapeutic agent for mCRC treatment, but also pave the path for the development of other VEGF-IL6-STAT3 targeting therapeutic strategies.

© 2023. The Author(s).