Teaming Up for Trouble: Cancer Cells, Transforming Growth Factor-β1 Signaling and the Epigenetic Corruption of Stromal Naïve Fibroblasts Academic Article uri icon


  • It is well recognized that cancer cells subvert the phenotype of stromal naïve fibroblasts and instruct the neighboring cells to sustain their growth agenda. The mechanisms underpinning the switch of fibroblasts to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are the focus of intense investigation. One of the most significant hallmarks of the biological identity of CAFs is that their tumor-promoting phenotype is stably maintained during in vitro and ex vivo propagation without the continual interaction with the adjacent cancer cells. In this review, we discuss robust evidence showing that the master cytokine Transforming Growth Factor-β1 (TGFβ-1) is a prime mover in reshaping, via epigenetic switches, the phenotype of stromal fibroblasts to a durable state. We also examine, in detail, the pervasive involvement of TGFβ-1 signaling from both cancer cells and CAFs in fostering cancer development, taking colorectal cancer (CRC) as a paradigm of human neoplasia. Finally, we review the stroma-centric anticancer therapeutic approach focused on CAFs-the most abundant cell population of the tumor microenvironment (TME)-as target cells.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018