It is increasingly recognized that the non-neoplastic stromal compartment in most solid cancers plays an active role in tumor proliferation, invasion and metastasis. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are one of the most abundant cell types in the tumor stroma, and these cells are pro-tumorigenic. Evidence that CAFs are epigenetically and possibly also genetically distinct from normal fibroblasts is beginning to define these cells as potential targets of anti-cancer therapy. Here, we review the cell-of-origin and molecular biology of CAFs, arguing that such knowledge provides a rational basis for designing therapeutic strategies to coordinately and synergistically target both the stromal and malignant epithelial component of human cancers.
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