Intermittent hypoxia induces a metastatic phenotype in breast cancer Academic Article uri icon


  • Hypoxia arises frequently in solid tumors and is a poor prognostic factor as it promotes tumor cell proliferation, invasion, angiogenesis, therapy resistance, and metastasis. Notably, there are two described forms of hypoxia present in a growing tumor: chronic hypoxia, caused by abnormal tumor vasculature, and intermittent hypoxia, caused by transient perfusion facilitated by tumor-supplying blood vessels. Here, we demonstrate that intermittent hypoxia, but not chronic hypoxia, endows breast cancer cells with greater metastatic potential. Using an immunocompetent and syngeneic murine model of breast cancer, we show that intermittent hypoxia enhances metastatic seeding and outgrowth in lungs in vivo. Furthermore, exposing mammary tumor cells to intermittent hypoxia promoted clonal diversity, upregulated metastasis-associated gene expression, induced a pro-tumorigenic secretory profile, increased stem-like cell marker expression, and gave rise to tumor-initiating cells at a relatively higher frequency. This work demonstrates that intermittent hypoxia, but not chronic hypoxia, induces a number of genetic, molecular, biochemical, and cellular changes that facilitate tumor cell survival, colonization, and the creation of a permissive microenvironment and thus enhances metastatic growth.

publication date

  • 2018