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Stem Cells. 2011 Mar;29(3):397-403. doi: 10.1002/stem.596.

Concise review: mesenchymal tumors: when stem cells go mad.

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Department of Pathology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Sarcomas are nonepithelial, nonhematopoietic malignant tumors that arise from the embryonic mesoderm. Despite their rarity, less than 10% of all cancers, sarcomas are accountable for relatively high morbidity and mortality especially in children and adolescents. Although there are some hereditary conditions predisposing sarcoma, such as the Li-Fraumeni and Retinoblastoma syndrome, the vast majority of these tumors are sporadic. Based on their histological morphology, sarcomas have been divided into a broad spectrum of subtypes recognized in the 2002 WHO classification of tumors. This wide lineage range suggests that sarcomas originate from either many committed different cell types or from a multipotent cell, subsequently driven into a certain lineage. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are able to differentiate into many cell types needed to create mature structures like vessels, muscle, and bone. These multipotent cells can be isolated from several adult human tissues and massively expanded in culture, making them both of use for research as well as potential beneficial therapeutical agents. For this reason MSCs are being extensively studied, however, concerns have raised about whether they are the putative originating cells of sarcoma and their questionable role in cancer progression. Recent accomplishments in the field have broadened our knowledge of MSCs in relation to sarcoma origin, sarcoma treatment and the safety of MSCs usage in therapeutic settings.

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