The most common connective tissue cell in animals is the fibroblast, which plays an important role in healing wounds. But Dr. Neta Erez of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has now demonstrated that fibroblasts can also do a body great harm, helping to “recruit” immune cells for tumor growth.
CAFs stimulate inflammation and angiogenesis — the creation of new blood cells – which in turn enable cancer cell proliferation. Without the recruitment of new blood vessels, cancer couldn’t grow bigger than a millimeter. Tumor growth requires the assistance of other tissues in our body, and Dr. Erez’s research implicating fibroblasts breaks new ground in science.
New avenues for drug research
CAFs appear to be able to recruit immune cells from the body that can enhance tumor growth, Dr. Erez explains. In addition, normal skin fibroblasts can be "educated" by cancer cells to express pro-inflammatory genes.
Armed with this information, Dr. Erez plans to study the molecular pathways that link tumor cells to their environments around the tumors, hoping to develop drug targets to disrupt any cellular processes that support tumor growth. Her research opens a new frontier, suggesting how inflammation in the body can be managed to reduce the growth and spread of cancer.
"My goal is to understand everything about the local environment where a tumor grows – what feeds it, what cells play a role, and how they work together — to improve existing therapeutics, or to create a new cancer drug," she says.
Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University