Tumor behavior is not entirely determined by tumor cells. Studies have demonstrated that a variety of non-tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment affect tumor behavior; thus, a new focus of cancer research has been the development of novel cancer treatment ideas and therapeutic targets based on the effects of these cells. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an important component of the tumor microenvironment; however, previous studies have produced controversial results regarding whether MSCs promote or inhibit tumor growth and progression. In particular, Naïve MSCs and tumor-derived MSCs (T-MSCs) have different functions. Naïve MSCs could exert bidirectional effects on tumors because these cells can both promote and inhibit tumor progression while T-MSCs promote tumor progression due to influences from the tumor itself and from the inflammatory tumor microenvironment. As an unhealed wound, tumor produces a continuous source of inflammatory mediators and causes aggregation of numerous inflammatory cells, which constitute an inflammatory microenvironment. Inflammatory factors can induce homing of circulating MSCs and MSCs in adjacent tissues into tumors, which are then being "educated" by the tumor microenvironment to support tumor growth. T-MSCs could recruit more immune cells into the tumor microenvironment, increase the proportion of cancer stem cells and promote tumor angiogenesis, further supporting tumor progression. However, as plasticity is a fundamental feature of MSCs, MSCs can also inhibit tumors by activating various MSC-based signaling pathways. Studies of the mechanisms by which interactions among tumors, MSCs, and the inflammatory microenvironment occur and methods to disrupt these interactions will likely reveal new targets for cancer therapy.
- Inflammatory microenvironment
- Mesenchymal stem cell