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Gastroenterology. 2017 Apr;152(5):964-979. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.11.049. Epub 2017 Jan 20.

Mesenchymal Cells in Colon Cancer.

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Biomedical Sciences Research Centre "Alexander Fleming," Vari, Greece.
Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, School of Medicine, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Institute for Tumor Biology and Experimental Therapy, Georg-Speyer-Haus, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; German Cancer Consortium, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:
Biomedical Sciences Research Centre "Alexander Fleming," Vari, Greece; Department of Physiology, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece. Electronic address:


Mesenchymal cells in the intestine comprise a variety of cell types of diverse origins, functions, and molecular markers. They provide mechanical and structural support and have important functions during intestinal organogenesis, morphogenesis, and homeostasis. Recent studies of the human transcriptome have revealed their importance in the development of colorectal cancer, and studies from animal models have provided evidence for their roles in the pathogenesis of colitis-associated cancer and sporadic colorectal cancer. Mesenchymal cells in tumors, called cancer-associated fibroblasts, arise via activation of resident mesenchymal cell populations and the recruitment of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and fibrocytes. Cancer-associated fibroblasts have a variety of activities that promote colon tumor development and progression; these include regulation of intestinal inflammation, epithelial proliferation, stem cell maintenance, angiogenesis, extracellular matrix remodeling, and metastasis. We review the intestinal mesenchymal cell-specific pathways that regulate these processes, with a focus on their roles in mediating interactions between inflammation and carcinogenesis. We also discuss how increasing our understanding of intestinal mesenchymal cell biology and function could lead to new strategies to identify and treat colitis-associated cancers.


CAF; Colon Cancer; IBD; Mesenchyme

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