Concise Review: Crosstalk of Mesenchymal Stroma/Stem-Like Cells with Cancer Cells Provides Therapeutic Potential

Stem Cells. 2018 Jul;36(7):951-968. doi: 10.1002/stem.2829. Epub 2018 Apr 16.


Various direct and indirect cellular interactions between multi-functional mesenchymal stroma/stem-like cells (MSCs) and cancer cells contribute to increasing plasticity within the tumor tissue and its microenvironment. Direct and tight communication between MSC and cancer cells is based on membrane protein interactions and the exchange of large plasma membrane fragments also known as trogocytosis. An ultimate but rare direct interaction resumes in fusion of these two cellular partners resulting in the formation of new cancer hybrid cell populations. Alternatively, indirect interactions are displayed by the release of membranous vesicle-encapsulated microRNAs and proteins or soluble components such as molecular growth factors, hormones, chemo-/cytokines, and metabolites. Released single molecules as well as multivesicular bodies including exosomes and microvesicles can form local concentration gradients within the tumor microenvironment and are incorporated not only by adjacent neighboring cells but also affect distant target cells. The present Review will focus on vesicle-mediated indirect communication and on cancer cell fusion with direct contact between MSC and cancer cells. These different types of interaction are accompanied by functional interference and mutual acquisition of new cellular properties. Consequently, alterations in cancer cell functionalities paralleled by the capability to reorganize the tumor stroma can trigger changes in metastatic behavior and promote retrodifferentiation to develop new cancer stem-like cells. However, exosomes and microvesicles acting over long distances may also provide a tool with therapeutic potential when loaded with anti-tumor cargo. Stem Cells 2018;36:951-968.

Keywords: Cancer cells; Exosomes; Fusion; Hybrid cells; Intercellular communication; Mesenchymal stroma/stem-like cells; Microvesicles; Retrodifferentiation; Trogocytosis; Tumor therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*