Normal tissue cells called fibroblasts can help to form a path for invading carcinoma cells, and may thereby promote tumour metastasis, suggests a paper online in Nature Cell Biology.
The role of tumour-associated fibroblasts in tumour development has been well documented, but Erik Sahai and colleagues have now identified a novel role in promoting the spreading of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells from the primary tumour by tunnelling through the matrix that surrounds and confines cancer cells.
Using a three-dimensional cell-culture system that mimics the tumour environment, they found that SCC cells could only escape from the solid tumour if they were lead by a fibroblast cell; the fibroblasts are needed to remodel the matrix around the tumour cells and so provide a path along which they can move. This mechanism of tumour invasion may hold true in patients: in samples taken from the head and neck of SCC patients, fibroblasts were seen closely associated with invading tumour cells and activated the same factor, Rho -- shown to be important for fibroblast-mediated invasion in the culture system.
A new model emerges in which carcinoma cells can become invasive without needing to undergo a change in morphology themselves. Instead, the force and matrix remodelling activities required for invasion can be provided by another cell type -- in this case, fibroblasts associated with the tumour cells.
Erik Sahai (Cancer Research UK, London, UK)
Additional contact for comment on paper:
Derek Radisky (Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Jacksonville, FL, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Cell Biology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza