The two faces of enhanced stroma: Stroma acts as a tumor promoter and a steric obstacle

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EarlyView Article

  • Published: Dec 7, 2017
  • Author: Claudia Tanja Mierke, Frank Sauer, Steffen Grosser, Stefanie Puder, Tony Fischer, Josef Alfons Käs
  • Journal: NMR in Biomedicine

In addition to genetic, morphological and biochemical alterations in cells, a key feature of the malignant progression of cancer is the stroma, including cancer cell motility as well as the emergence of metastases. Our current knowledge with regard to the biophysically driven experimental approaches of cancer progression indicates that mechanical aberrations are major contributors to the malignant progression of cancer. In particular, the mechanical probing of the stroma is of great interest. However, the impact of the tumor stroma on cellular motility, and hence the metastatic cascade leading to the malignant progression of cancer, is controversial as there are two different and opposing effects within the stroma. On the one hand, the stroma can promote and enhance the proliferation, survival and migration of cancer cells through mechanotransduction processes evoked by fiber alignment as a result of increased stroma rigidity. This enables all types of cancer to overcome restrictive biological capabilities. On the other hand, as a result of its structural constraints, the stroma acts as a steric obstacle for cancer cell motility in dense three‐dimensional extracellular matrices, when the pore size is smaller than the cell's nucleus. The mechanical properties of the stroma, such as the tissue matrix stiffness and the entire architectural network of the stroma, are the major players in providing the optimal environment for cancer cell migration. Thus, biophysical methods determining the mechanical properties of the stroma, such as magnetic resonance elastography, are critical for the diagnosis and prediction of early cancer stages. Fibrogenesis and cancer are tightly connected, as there is an elevated risk of cancer on cystic fibrosis or, subsequently, cirrhosis. This also applies to the subsequent metastatic process.

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