Signature of the vascular tumor microenvironment as a marker of the therapeutic response to doxorubicin in a preclinical model of osteosarcoma

Predicting a response of osteosarcoma patients to chemotherapy, such as doxorubicin or high-dose methotrexate cocktail, remains a challenge in the clinic. Moreover, the prognostic value of currently used necrosis analysis is debatable. New markers of the therapeutic response or the prognostic response are urgently needed. The microenvironment plays a key role in the vascularization of highly heterogeneous tumors. Using the syngeneic MOS-J mouse model of osteosarcoma, we focused our study on the immunohistochemistry of tumor vascularization in order to identify new vessel markers, and to search for potential markers of the therapeutic response. Endomucin+, CD31+, and α-SMA+-positive elements were quantified in control (n=6) and doxorubicin-treated (n=6) mice in three different intra-tumor locations. We also used co-labeling to assess CD31+/Endomucin+ and CD31+/α-SMA+ co-expression. We identified a central tumor zone with a low vascularization profile for all of these markers. We identified two distinct types of vessels: CD31+/Endomucin+ vessels with a sprouting, neo-angiogenic, interlaced appearance, and CD31+/α-SMA+ vessel with a well-defined, mature structure. Doxorubicin appeared to reduce CD31+ expression in the tumor invasion front. In the doxorubicin-sensitive model, there were four times more CD31+/α-SMA+ elements than in the poorly responsive model. Therefore, we propose a methodology based on immunohistochemistry and multiplexed immunofluorescence to use endomucin as a promising new vascular marker in the osteosarcoma model. Moreover, our results suggest that CD31+/α-SMA+ vessels could be considered to be indicators of vasculature normalization and they may be used as specific markers of a good therapeutic response.

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