Enhancement of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma proliferation, invasion, and metastasis by tumor-associated fibroblasts in preclinical models

Head Neck. 2014 Mar;36(3):385-92. doi: 10.1002/hed.23312. Epub 2013 Jun 1.


Background: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has had little improvement in mortality rates in decades. A clearer understanding of the HNSCC tumor microenvironment will aid in finding more effective targeted therapies for this disease. Tumor-associated fibroblasts (TAFs) are the largest stromal cellular components of the tumor microenvironment in HNSCC.

Methods: We isolated TAFs from clinical HNSCC cases and propagated in vitro. The effects of TAF-secreted paracrine factors on in vitro HNSCC migration, invasion, and proliferation was assessed. The effect of TAFs on HNSCC growth and metastases was determined in an orthotopic floor-of-the-mouth tumor model.

Results: TAF-conditioned media increased HNSCC cell migration, invasion, and proliferation. TAFs increased HNSCC tumor growth and metastases in vivo.

Conclusion: TAFs play a major role in increasing tumor growth and metastasis in HNSCC. Targeting the tumor stroma may be important to reduce the rate of HNSCC metastasis.

Keywords: head and neck cancer; invasion; metastasis; tumor microenvironment; tumor-associated fibroblasts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Paracrine Communication / physiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck
  • Stromal Cells / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Culture Media, Conditioned