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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e48654. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048654. Epub 2012 Oct 31.

Close interactions between mesenchymal stem cells and neuroblastoma cell lines lead to tumor growth inhibition.

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  • 1Laboratory of Oncology, Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Genoa, Italy.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have attracted much interest in oncology since they exhibit marked tropism for the tumor microenvironment and support or suppress malignant cell growth depending on the tumor model tested. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of MSCs in the control of the growth of neuroblastoma (NB), which is the second most common solid tumor in children. In vivo experiments showed that systemically administered MSCs, under our experimental conditions, did not home to tumor sites and did not affect tumor growth or survival. However, MSCs injected intratumorally in an established subcutaneous NB model reduced tumor growth through inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis of NB cells and prolonged the survival of hMSC-treated mice. The need for contact between MSCs and NB cells was further supported by in vitro experiments. In particular, MSCs were found to be attracted by NB cells, and to affect NB cell proliferation with different results depending on the cell line tested. Moreover, NB cells, after pre-incubation with hMSCs, acquired a more invasive behavior towards CXCL12 and the bone marrow, i.e., the primary site of NB metastases. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that functional cross-talk between MSCs and NB cell lines used in our experiments can occur only within short range interaction. Thus, this report does not support the clinical use of MSCs as vehicles for selective delivery of antitumor drugs at the NB site unless chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy create suitable local conditions for MSCs recruitment.

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