Molecular biology of cancer-associated fibroblasts: can these cells be targeted in anti-cancer therapy?

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2010 Feb;21(1):2-10. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Oct 17.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Neoplasms* / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Stromal Cells / pathology
  • Stromal Cells / physiology*
  • Wound Healing