The role of tumor stroma in cancer progression and prognosis: emphasis on carcinoma-associated fibroblasts and non-small cell lung cancer

J Thorac Oncol. 2011 Jan;6(1):209-17. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181f8a1bd.


Maintenance of both normal epithelial tissues and their malignant counterparts is supported by the host tissue stroma. The tumor stroma mainly consists of the basement membrane, fibroblasts, extracellular matrix, immune cells, and vasculature. Although most host cells in the stroma possess certain tumor-suppressing abilities, the stroma will change during malignancy and eventually promote growth, invasion, and metastasis. Stromal changes at the invasion front include the appearance of carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). CAFs constitute a major portion of the reactive tumor stroma and play a crucial role in tumor progression. The main precursors of CAFs are normal fibroblasts, and the transdifferentiation of fibroblasts to CAFs is driven to a great extent by cancer-derived cytokines such as transforming growth factor-β. During recent years, the crosstalk between the cancer cells and the tumor stroma, highly responsible for the progression of tumors and their metastasis, has been increasingly unveiled. A better understanding of the host stroma contribution to cancer progression will increase our knowledge about the growth promoting signaling pathways and hopefully lead to novel therapeutic interventions targeting the tumor stroma. This review reports novel data on the essential crosstalk between cancer cells and cells of the tumor stroma, with an emphasis on the role played by CAFs. Furthermore, it presents recent literature on relevant tumor stroma- and CAF-related research in non-small cell lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Fibroblasts / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Stromal Cells / pathology*