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Niess, Hanno; Thomas, Michael N.; Schiergens, Tobias S.; Kleespies, Axel; Jauch, Karl-Walter; Bruns, Christiane; Werner, Jens; Nelson, Peter J.; Angele, Martin K. (2016): Genetic engineering of mesenchymal stromal cells for cancer therapy: turning partners in crime into Trojan horses. In: Innovative Surgical Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 1: pp. 19-32


Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are adult progenitor cells with a high migratory and differentiation potential, which influence a broad range of biological functions in almost every tissue of the body. Among other mechanisms, MSCs do so by the secretion of molecular cues, differentiation toward more specialized cell types, or influence on the immune system. Expanding tumors also depend on the contribution of MSCs to building a supporting stroma, but the effects of MSCs appear to go beyond the mere supply of connective tissues. MSCs show targeted "homing" toward growing tumors, which is then followed by exerting direct and indirect effects on cancer cells. Several research groups have developed novel strategies that make use of the tumor tropism of MSCs by engineering them to express a transgene that enables an attack on cancer growth. This review aims to familiarize the reader with the current knowledge about MSC biology, the existing evidence for MSC contribution to tumor growth with its underlying mechanisms, and the strategies that have been developed using MSCs to deploy an anticancer therapy.