Fibroblasts were extracted from tissue in tumor burden zones, distal normal zones and interface zones between tumor and normal tissue of human breast carcinomas, and the corresponding fibroblasts were designated as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), normal zone fibroblasts (NFs) and interface zone fibroblasts (INFs). The crosstalk between three types of fibroblasts and breast cancer cells was evaluated using an in vitro direct co-culture model. We found that INFs grew faster and expressed higher levels of fibroblast activation protein than did NFs and CAFs. Compared with CAFs and NFs, INFs grown with breast cancer cells were significantly more effective in inducing an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cancer cells, as indicated by induction of vimentin and N-cadherin and downregulation of E-cadherin. This EMT process was also accompanied by activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and modulation of membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) expression. Additionally, INFs promoted breast cell migration to a larger extent compared with NFs and CAFs. Taken together, these findings indicate that INFs isolated from the tumor interface zone exhibited more robust biological modulatory activity than did NFs and CAFs isolated from normal and tumor zones of the same tumor tissue, suggesting that the interface zone of the tumor represents a dynamic region vital to tumor progression.