Fibroblasts Make a Big Noise in Cancer Research

Common tissue cell fibroblast, which helps wounds heal, implicated in cancer growth

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The fibroblast, the most common connective tissue cell, plays a vital role in healing wounds. But can also cause harm.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine have demonstrated how fibroblasts can recruit immune cells for cancer growth. When cancer cells first begin to proliferate, fibroblasts rush to the scene to assist in healing, but the ordinarily helpful fibroblast cells can be turned against the body by stimulating inflammation and thereby enhancing tumor growth.

Inflammation can cause cancer, but now the researchers have discovered the inverse is also true: cancer can also cause inflammation by attracting immune cells. Inflammatory cells are implicated in all solid tumors, such as liver cancer, which can start with chronic inflammation resulting from conditions like hepatitis, or in bowel tumors promoted by inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease.

Researchers looked at animal models using mice skin as well as in human tumors extracted in surgery. Dr. Neta Erez found that a growing tumor can co-opt fibroblasts and transform them into cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) by making them support the tumor.

Erez said cancer cells recruit CAFs at very early stages in cancer.

Erez's next goal is to study the molecular pathways that link tumor cells to their environments around the tumors. From this, she hopes to help develop drug targets to interrupt cellular processes that support tumor growth.

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Review Date: 
January 27, 2011
Last Updated:
February 2, 2011