Androgens are produced locally in breast carcinoma tissues by androgen-producing enzymes such as 5α-reductase type 1 (5αRed1) and affect not only breast cancer cells but the tumor microenvironment as well. Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are primary components of the tumor microenvironment and contribute to tumor progression. Although previous studies suggest that androgen/androgen receptor (AR) signaling in macrophages has important roles in human diseases, androgen action on TAMs has remained largely unknown. We immunolocalized macrophage marker CD163 as well as AR and 5αRed1 in 116 breast carcinomas and correlated them with clinicopathological parameters and clinical outcomes. Moreover, we examined the roles of androgens on macrophages in breast cancer progression using cell lines 4T1 (mouse breast cancer) and RAW264.7 (macrophage) in a tumor-bearing female BALB/c mouse model. Double immunohistochemistry revealed that AR was sporadically expressed in the macrophages in breast carcinoma tissues. Macrophage infiltration was significantly correlated with an aggressive phenotype of breast carcinomas and worse prognosis, especially in the 5αRed1-positive group. In a sphere-forming assay using 4T1 and RAW-AR cells, which stably express AR, the sphere size was significantly increased due to androgens when 4T1 cells were cocultured with RAW-AR cells. Furthermore, in vivo experiments revealed that tumor growth and Ki67, a cell proliferation marker, were increased when androgens were stably produced
in breast cancer cells and AR was expressed in macrophages. In conclusion, AR is expressed in intratumoral macrophages and is associated with an aggressive phenotype of breast carcinomas, especially when breast cancer cells actively produce androgens. Thus, androgens may enhance the ability of macrophages to promote breast cancer progression.
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