Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and colorectal cancer - A troublesome twosome for the anti-tumour immune response?

Grace O'Malley, Madelon Heijltjes, Aileen M. Houston, Sweta Rani, Thomas Ritter, Laurence J. Egan, Aideen E. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The tumour microenvironment (TME) is an important factor in determining the growth and metastasis of colorectal cancer, and can aid tumours by both establishing an immunosuppressive milieu, allowing the tumour avoid immune clearance, and by hampering the efficacy of various therapeutic regimens. The tumour microenvironment is composed of many cell types including tumour, stromal, endothelial and immune cell populations. It is widely accepted that cells present in the TME acquire distinct functional phenotypes that promote tumorigenesis. One such cell type is the mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC). Evidence suggests that MSCs exert effects in the colorectal tumour microenvironment including the promotion of angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis. MSCs immunomodulatory capacity may represent another largely unexplored central feature of MSCs tumour promoting capacity. There is considerable evidence to suggest that MSCs and their secreted factors can influence the innate and adaptive immune responses. MSC-immune cell interactions can skew the proliferation and functional activity of T-cells, dendritic cells, natural killer cells and macrophages, which could favour tumour growth and enable tumours to evade immune cell clearance. A better understanding of the interactions between the malignant cancer cell and stromal components of the TME is key to the development of more specific and efficacious therapies for colorectal cancer. Here, we review and explore MSC- mediated mechanisms of suppressing anti-tumour immune responses in the colon tumour microenvironment. Elucidation of the precise mechanism of immunomodulation exerted by tumour-educated MSCs is critical to inhibiting immunosuppression and immune evasion established by the TME, thus providing an opportunity for targeted and efficacious immunotherapy for colorectal cancer growth and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60752-60774
Number of pages23
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Immunomodulation
  • Immunosuppression
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells
  • Tumour microenvironment


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