The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key regulator of cell and tissue function. Traditionally, the ECM has been thought of primarily as a physical scaffold that binds cells and tissues together. However, the ECM also elicits biochemical and biophysical signaling. Controlled proteolysis and remodeling of the ECM network regulate tissue tension, generate pathways for migration, and release ECM protein fragments to direct normal developmental processes such as branching morphogenesis. Collagens are major components of the ECM of which basement membrane type IV and interstitial matrix type I are the most prevalent. Here we discuss how abnormal expression, proteolysis and structure of these collagens influence cellular functions to elicit multiple effects on tumors, including proliferation, initiation, invasion, metastasis, and therapy response.
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