Published online Feb 26, 2010. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v2.i1.5
Revised: January 12, 2010
Accepted: January 19, 2010
Published online: February 26, 2010
In cancer biology, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) display aspects that can appear contradictory. On one hand, these cells possess several features which give them the ability to specifically target and then sustain cancer cells in their ability to survive the multifaceted host response against cancer. On the other hand, due to this excellent aptitude to home-in on tumor tissues, regardless their location in the host’s body, MSCs are considered to be extremely selective vehicles to reach cancer cells specifically. Recently, MSC sustainment of cancer cell growth is a hot research topic. Indeed, these cells are known to sustain tumor angiogenesis and metastasis formation, to create a microenvironment favorable for cancer cell growth and to down-modulate the immune system capabilities in the host organism. On the other hand, since scientists became able to take advantage of their extremely selective capability to target cancer cells, MSCs are now also thought of in a different light. Indeed, MSCs are now considered a promising vehicle for local expression or delivery of even particularly toxic anticancer agents, ranging from Herpes Simplex Virus to locally-acting antineoplastic drugs. On this basis, investigation is now focused on how to impair the pro-neoplastic features of MSCs on one hand whilst taking advantage of their specific tropism toward cancer cells, on the other. As with the two faces of Janus, this review will concisely explore the research activity in these two apparently conflicting fields.