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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28321. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028321. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Mesenchymal stromal cells primed with paclitaxel provide a new approach for cancer therapy.

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Department of Public Health, Microbiology, Virology, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.



Mesenchymal stromal cells may represent an ideal candidate to deliver anti-cancer drugs. In a previous study, we demonstrated that exposure of mouse bone marrow derived stromal cells to Doxorubicin led them to acquire anti-proliferative potential towards co-cultured haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). We thus hypothesized whether freshly isolated human bone marrow Mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and mature murine stromal cells (SR4987 line) primed in vitro with anti-cancer drugs and then localized near cancer cells, could inhibit proliferation.


Paclitaxel (PTX) was used to prime culture of hMSCs and SR4987. Incorporation of PTX into hMSCs was studied by using FICT-labelled-PTX and analyzed by FACS and confocal microscopy. Release of PTX in culture medium by PTX primed hMSCs (hMSCsPTX) was investigated by HPLC. Culture of Endothelial cells (ECs) and aorta ring assay were used to test the anti-angiogenic activity of hMSCsPTX and PTX primed SR4987(SR4987PTX), while anti-tumor activity was tested in vitro on the proliferation of different tumor cell lines and in vivo by co-transplanting hMSCsPTX and SR4987PTX with cancer cells in mice. Nevertheless, despite a loss of cells due to chemo-induced apoptosis, both hMSCs and SR4987 were able to rapidly incorporate PTX and could slowly release PTX in the culture medium in a time dependent manner. PTX primed cells acquired a potent anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic activity in vitro that was dose dependent, and demonstrable by using their conditioned medium or by co-culture assay. Finally, hMSCsPTX and SR4987PTX co-injected with human cancer cells (DU145 and U87MG) and mouse melanoma cells (B16) in immunodeficient and in syngenic mice significantly delayed tumor takes and reduced tumor growth.


These data demonstrate, for the first time, that without any genetic manipulation, mesenchymal stromal cells can uptake and subsequently slowly release PTX. This may lead to potential new tools to increase efficacy of cancer therapy.

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