Colon tumor cells that metastasize to the liver become more aggressive in response to a new hostile microenvironment

Certain healthy liver cells promote an adaptive response in colorectal cancer cells by inhibiting proliferation and causing their death. Tumor cells, that adapt themselves to new conditions, change their behavior and morphology, favoring migration. Researchers from the IDIBELL and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), coordinated by David Garcia Molleví have published the results of this study in the journal Neoplasia.

The cellular microenvironment (called stroma) has a dual role in controlling normal or malignant cell development: on the one hand, it prevents the abnormal cell proliferation (neoplasm) in normal tissues while, on the other it can enhance growth and tumor invasion in the progression of cancer.

Cancer is a complex tissue where they act different cell types (80% are of a type called fibroblasts) that coexist with other cells to create a particular microenvironment. The balance between these populations, the microenvironment, can determine the fate of the tumor.

A hostile microenvironment

The aim of this study is to compare the influence of the microenvironment in three different situations: in a healthy colorectal tissue, in a colorectal primary tumor and in a colorectal tumor metastasized to the liver.

In the primary tumor, colon fibroblasts increase the proliferation of malignant cells, protecting them from programmed cell death (apoptosis). In contrast, in liver metastases, where tumor cells are in a hostile environment with liver fibroblasts, it not only decreases proliferation of tumor cells, but many die. The cells that manage to adapt to this environment, change their behavior and their morphology to encourage their migration. These adapted tumor cells are more aggressive.

According to David Garcia Molleví, coordinator of the study, this finding may be useful in clinical practice because it “opens the door to study the mechanism or factors of liver fibroblasts that results in death of colorectal tumor cells, for use them in the future as therapeutic tools against metastatic colon cancer”.

Article’s reference

Mireia Berdiel-Acer, Monika Bohem, Adriana López-Doriga, August Vidal, Ramon Salazar, Maria Martínez-Iniesta, Cristina Santos, Xavier Sanjuan, Alberto Villanueva and David G. Molleví. Hepatic Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts promote an adaptative response in colorectal cancer cells that inhibit proliferation and apoptosis. Neoplasia. Volume 13 Number 10 October 2011 pp. 931946

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