In vitro cross-talk between metastasis-competent circulating tumor cells and platelets in colon cancer: a malicious association during the harsh journey in the blood

Zahra Eslami-S, Luis Enrique Cortés-Hernández, Ilias Glogovitis, Mafalda Antunes-Ferreira, Silvia D’Ambrosi, Keerthi Kurma, Françoise Garima, Laure Cayrefourcq, Myron G. Best, Danijela Koppers-Lalic, Thomas Wurdinger, Catherine Alix-Panabières

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Background: Platelets are active players in hemostasis, coagulation and also tumorigenesis. The cross-talk between platelets and circulating tumor cells (CTCs) may have various pro-cancer effects, including promoting tumor growth, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), metastatic cell survival, adhesion, arrest and also pre-metastatic niche and metastasis formation. Interaction with CTCs might alter the platelet transcriptome. However, as CTCs are rare events, the cross-talk between CTCs and platelets is poorly understood. Here, we used our established colon CTC lines to investigate the colon CTC-platelet cross-talk in vitro and its impact on the behavior/phenotype of both cell types. Methods: We exposed platelets isolated from healthy donors to thrombin (positive control) or to conditioned medium from three CTC lines from one patient with colon cancer and then we monitored the morphological and protein expression changes by microscopy and flow cytometry. We then analyzed the transcriptome by RNA-sequencing of platelets indirectly (presence of a Transwell insert) co-cultured with the three CTC lines. We also quantified by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR the expression of genes related to EMT and cancer development in CTCs after direct co-culture (no Transwell insert) with platelets. Results: We observed morphological and transcriptomic changes in platelets upon exposure to CTC conditioned medium and indirect co-culture (secretome). Moreover, the expression levels of genes involved in EMT (p < 0.05) were decreased in CTCs co-cultured with platelets, but not of genes encoding mesenchymal markers (FN1 and SNAI2). The expression levels of genes involved in cancer invasiveness (MYC, VEGFB, IL33, PTGS2, and PTGER2) were increased. Conclusion: For the first time, we studied the CTC-platelet cross-talk using our unique colon CTC lines. Incubation with CTC conditioned medium led to platelet aggregation and activation, supporting the hypothesis that their interaction may contribute to preserve CTC integrity during their journey in the bloodstream. Moreover, co-culture with platelets influenced the expression of several genes involved in invasiveness and EMT maintenance in CTCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1209846
Pages (from-to)1209846
JournalFrontiers in cell and developmental biology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • cancer
  • circulating tumor cells (CTCs)
  • epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
  • metastasis
  • platelets
  • tumor-educated platelets (TEPs)

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