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J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Jun 22;29:80. doi: 10.1186/1756-9966-29-80.

Breast cancer stromal fibroblasts promote the generation of CD44+CD24- cells through SDF-1/CXCR4 interaction.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200092, China.



Breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) have been recently identified in breast carcinoma as CD44+CD24- cells, which exclusively retain tumorigenic activity and display stem cell-like properties. Using a mammosphere culture technique, MCF7 mammosphere cells are found to enrich breast cancer stem-like cells expressing CD44+CD24-. The stromal cells are mainly constituted by fibroblasts within a breast carcinoma, yet little is known of the contributions of the stromal cells to BCSCs.


Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and normal fibroblasts (NFs) were isolated and identified by immunohistochemistry. MCF7 mammosphere cells were co-cultured with different stromal fibroblasts by a transwell cocultured system. Flow cytometry was used to measure CD44 and CD24 expression status on MCF7. ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) was performed to investigate the production of stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) in mammosphere cultures subject to various treatments. Mammosphere cells were injected with CAFs and NFs to examine the efficiency of tumorigenity in NOD/SCID mice.


CAFs derived from breast cancer patients were found to be positive for alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA), exhibiting the traits of myofibroblasts. In addition, CAFs played a central role in promoting the proliferation of CD44+CD24- cells through their ability to secrete SDF-1, which may be mediated to SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling. Moreover, the tumorigenicity of mammosphere cells with CAFs significantly increased as compared to that of mammosphere cells alone or with NFs.


We for the first time investigated the effects of stromal fibroblasts on CD44+CD24- cells and our findings indicated that breast CAFs contribute to CD44+CD24- cell proliferation through the secretion of SDF-1, and which may be important target for therapeutic approaches.

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