Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most lethal form of breast cancer. All IBC patients have lymph node involvement and one-third of patients already have distant metastasis at diagnosis. This propensity for metastasis is a hallmark of IBC distinguishing it from less lethal non-inflammatory breast cancers (nIBC). Genetic profiling studies have been conducted to differentiate IBC from nIBC, but no IBC cancer-cell-specific gene signature has been identified. We hypothesized that a tumor-extrinsic factor, notably tumor-associated macrophages, promotes and contributes to IBC's extreme metastatic phenotype. To this end, we studied the effect of macrophage-conditioned media (MCM) on IBC. We show that two IBC cell lines are hyper-responsive to MCM as compared to normal-like breast and aggressive nIBC cell lines. We further interrogated IBC's hyper-responsiveness to MCM using a microfluidic migration device, which permits individual cell migration path tracing. We found the MCM "primes" the IBC cells' cellular machinery to become extremely migratory in response to a chemoattractant. We determined that interleukins -6, -8, and -10 within the MCM are sufficient to stimulate this enhanced IBC migration effect, and that the known metastatic oncogene, RhoC GTPase, is necessary for the enhanced migration response.
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