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Nat Rev Cancer. 2016 Aug 23;16(9):582-98. doi: 10.1038/nrc.2016.73.

The biology and function of fibroblasts in cancer.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Metastasis Research Center, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77054, USA.


Among all cells, fibroblasts could be considered the cockroaches of the human body. They survive severe stress that is usually lethal to all other cells, and they are the only normal cell type that can be live-cultured from post-mortem and decaying tissue. Their resilient adaptation may reside in their intrinsic survival programmes and cellular plasticity. Cancer is associated with fibroblasts at all stages of disease progression, including metastasis, and they are a considerable component of the general host response to tissue damage caused by cancer cells. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) become synthetic machines that produce many different tumour components. CAFs have a role in creating extracellular matrix (ECM) structure and metabolic and immune reprogramming of the tumour microenvironment with an impact on adaptive resistance to chemotherapy. The pleiotropic actions of CAFs on tumour cells are probably reflective of them being a heterogeneous and plastic population with context-dependent influence on cancer.

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