Introduction: Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are non-hematopoietic progenitor cells that have been exploited as vehicles for cell-based cancer therapy. The general approach is based on the innate potential of adoptively applied MSC to undergo facilitated recruitment to malignant tissue. MSC from different tissue sources have been engineered using a variety of therapy genes that have shown efficacy in solid tumor models.
Areas covered: In this review we will focus on the current developments of MSC-based gene therapy, in particular the diverse approaches that have been used for MSCs-targeted tumor therapy. We also discuss some outstanding issues and general prospects for their clinical application.
Expert opinion: The use of modified mesenchymal stem cells as therapy vehicles for the treatment of solid tumors has progressed to the first generation of clinical trials, but the general field is still in its infancy. There are many questions that need to be addressed if this very complex therapy approach is widely applied in clinical settings. More must be understood about the mechanisms underlying tumor tropism and we need to identify the optimal source of the cells used. Outstanding issues also include the therapy transgenes used, and which tumor types represent viable targets for this therapy.
Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cell; cellular tumor therapy; engineering; suicide gene.