Connective tissue growth factor produced by cancer‑associated fibroblasts correlates with poor prognosis in epithelioid malignant pleural mesothelioma

Oncol Rep. 2020 Sep;44(3):838-848. doi: 10.3892/or.2020.7669. Epub 2020 Jul 3.


Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive neoplasm for which effective treatments are lacking. We often encounter mesothelioma cases with a profound desmoplastic reaction, suggesting the involvement of cancer‑associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in mesothelioma progression. While the roles of CAFs have been extensively studied in other tumors and have led to the view that the cancer stroma contains heterogeneous populations of CAFs, their roles in mesothelioma remain unknown. We previously showed that connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a secreted protein, is produced by both mesothelioma cells and fibroblasts and promotes the invasion of mesothelioma cells in vitro. In this study, we examined the clinical relevance of CAFs in mesothelioma. Using surgical specimens of epithelioid malignant pleural mesothelioma, we evaluated the clinicopathological significance of the expression of α‑smooth muscle actin (αSMA), the most widely used marker of CAFs, the expression of CTGF, and the extent of fibrosis by immunohistochemistry and Elastica‑Masson staining. We also analyzed the expression of mesenchymal stromal cell‑ and fibroblast‑expressing Linx paralogue (Meflin; ISLR), a recently reported CAF marker that labels cancer‑restraining CAFs and differ from αSMA‑positive CAFs, by in situ hybridization. The extent of fibrosis and CTGF expression in mesothelioma cells did not correlate with patient prognosis. However, the expression of αSMA and CTGF, but not Meflin, in CAFs correlated with poor prognosis. The data suggest that CTGF+ CAFs are involved in mesothelioma progression and represent a potential molecular target for mesothelioma therapy.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor / analysis
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Immunoglobulins / metabolism
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant / mortality*
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant / pathology
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Pleura / pathology*
  • Pleura / surgery
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pleural Neoplasms / therapy
  • Survival Rate


  • ACTA2 protein, human
  • Actins
  • CCN2 protein, human
  • ISLR protein, human
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor