Modulation of peritumoral fibroblasts with a membrane-tethered tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) for the elimination of cancer cells

Yihe Zhang, Shiyu Liu, Bingjie Jiang, Sung Kay Chiu, Meng Huee Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Peritumoral fibroblasts are key components of the tumor microenvironment. Through remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and secretion of pro-tumorigenic cytokines, peritumoral fibroblasts foster an immunosuppressive milieu conducive to tumor cell proliferation. In this study, we investigated if peritumoral fibroblasts could be therapeutically engineered to elicit an anti-cancer response by abolishing the proteolytic activities of membrane-bound metalloproteinases involved in ECM modulation. Methods. A high affinity, glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase (TIMP) named “T1PrαTACE” was created for dual inhibition of MT1-MMP and TACE. T1PrαTACE was expressed in fibroblasts and its effects on cancer cell proliferation investigated in 3D co-culture models. Results. T1PrαTACE abrogated the activities of MT1-MMP and TACE in host fibroblasts. As a GPI protein, T1PrαTACE could spontaneously detach from the plasma membrane of the fibroblast to co-localize with MT1-MMP and TACE on neighboring cancer cells. In a 3D co-culture model, T1PrαTACE promoted adherence between the cancer cells and surrounding fibroblasts, which led to an attenuation in tumor development. Conclusion. Peritumoral fibroblasts can be modulated with the TIMP for the elimination of cancer cells. As a novel anti-tumor strategy, our approach could potentially be used in combination with conventional chemo- and immunotherapies for a more effective cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-208
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigational New Drugs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Cancer
  • Fibroblast
  • MT1-MMP
  • Prion
  • TACE
  • TIMP

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