Cancer tissues are not just simple masses of malignant cells, but rather complex and heterogeneous collections of cellular and even non-cellular components, such as endothelial cells, stromal cells, immune cells, and collagens, referred to as tumor microenvironment (TME). These multiple players in the TME develop dynamic interactions with each other, which determines the characteristics of the tumor. Platelets are the smallest cells in the bloodstream and primarily regulate blood coagulation and hemostasis. Notably, cancer patients often show thrombocytosis, a status of an increased platelet number in the bloodstream, as well as the platelet infiltration into the tumor stroma, which contributes to cancer promotion and progression. Thus, platelets function as one of the important stromal components in the TME, emerging as a promising chemotherapeutic target. However, the use of traditional antiplatelet agents, such as aspirin, has limitations mainly due to increased bleeding complications. This requires to implement new strategies to target platelets for anti-cancer effects. In oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) patients, both high platelet counts and low tumor-stromal ratio (high stroma) are strongly correlated with increased metastasis and poor prognosis. OSCC tends to invade adjacent tissues and bones and spread to the lymph nodes for distant metastasis, which is a huge hurdle for OSCC treatment in spite of relatively easy access for visual examination of precancerous lesions in the oral cavity. Therefore, locoregional control of the primary tumor is crucial for OSCC treatment. Similar to thrombocytosis, higher expression of podoplanin (PDPN) has been suggested as a predictive marker for higher frequency of lymph node metastasis of OSCC. Cumulative evidence supports that platelets can directly interact with PDPN-expressing cancer cells via C-type lectin-like receptor 2 (CLEC2), contributing to cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Thus, the platelet CLEC2-PDPN axis could be a pinpoint target to inhibit interaction between platelets and OSCC, avoiding undesirable side effects. Here, we will review the role of platelets in cancer, particularly focusing on CLEC2-PDPN interaction, and will assess their potentials as therapeutic targets for OSCC treatment.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) Grants funded by the Korean Government (grant numbers NRF-2020R1C1C1003338 and NRF-2016R1A5A2008630 to N-YS) and by the Yonsei University Research Fund of 2021 (Yonsei Signature Research Cluster Program 2021-22-0017).
Copyright © 2021 Hwang, Park, Cho, Zhang, Lee, Ahn, Chun, Chung and Song.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy