The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 841 - 849 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 7-8-9

Special Issue: Mammary Gland in Development & Cancer

Role of cancer-associated fibroblasts in breast cancer development and prognosis

Published: 29 November 2011

Abdelilah Aboussekhra*

King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, BMR, MBC # 03-66, Riyadh, KSA


Since Paget's "Seed and Soil" hypothesis in 1889 on cancer growth and metastasis, several studies on various solid tumors have confirmed the active role of the tumor milieu on the onset, growth and spread of neoplastic cells. Fibroblasts constitute the major components of the tumor microenvironment (stroma), and are therefore the most studied cell type. Therefore, a large amount of data has emerged showing the cancer-promoting function of these cells through paracrine effects that escort tumor cells through all the carcinogenesis steps. This involves many signaling proteins that transmit the message in both directions, allowing cooperative crosstalk between cancer cells and their stroma. This prompted several researchers to investigate the potential use of the molecular and cellular features of active stromal fibroblasts to generate specific tools for prevention, prognosis and treatment of cancer. Herein, I review the cellular and molecular features of active cancer-associated fibroblasts and their origin. Additionally, I summarize our current understanding of the procarcinogenic actions of these cells and their potential prognostic value for breast cancer patients.


Cancer-associated fibroblasts, breast cancer, paracrine signaling, prognosis

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