Concise review: Dissecting a discrepancy in the literature: do mesenchymal stem cells support or suppress tumor growth?

Stem Cells. 2011 Jan;29(1):11-9. doi: 10.1002/stem.559.


The discovery that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are recruited into tumors has led to a great deal of interest over the past decade in the function of MSCs in tumors. To address this, investigators have used a variety of tumor models in which MSCs are added exogenously to determine their impact on tumor development. Interestingly, many studies have reported contradicting results, with some investigators finding that MSCs promote tumor growth and others reporting that MSCs inhibit tumor growth. Many mechanisms have been reported to account for these observations, such as chemokine signaling, modulation of apoptosis, vascular support, and immune modulation. In this review, we analyzed the differences in the methodology of the studies reported and found that the timing of MSC introduction into tumors may be a critical element. Understanding the conditions in which MSCs enhance tumor growth and metastasis is crucial, both to safely develop MSCs as a therapeutic tool and to advance our understanding of the role of tumor stroma in carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Separation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / surgery*