MSC and Tumors: Homing, Differentiation, and Secretion Influence Therapeutic Potential

Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 2013;130:209-66. doi: 10.1007/10_2012_150.


: Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSC) are adult multipotent progenitors with fibroblast-like morphology able to differentiate into adipocytic, osteogenic, chondrogenic, and myogenic lineages. Due to these properties, MSC have been studied and introduced as therapeutics in regenerative medicine. Preliminary studies have also shown a possible involvement of MSC as precursors of cellular elements within tumor microenvironments, in particular tumor-associated fibroblasts (TAF). Among a number of different possible origins, TAF may originate from a pool of circulating progenitors from bone marrow or adipose tissue-derived MSC. There is growing evidence to corroborate that cells immunophenotypically defined as MSC are able to reside as TAF influencing the tumor microenvironment in a potentially bi-phasic and obscure manner: either promoting or inhibiting growth depending on tumor context and MSC sources. Here we focus on relationships between the tumor microenvironment, cancer cells, and MSC, analyzing their diverse ability to influence neoplastic development. Associated activities include MSC homing driven by the secretion of various mediators, differentiation towards TAF phenotypes, and reciprocal interactions with the tumor cells. These are reviewed here with the aim of understanding the biological functions of MSC that can be exploited for innovative cancer therapy.