Human mesenchymal stem cells enhance cancer cell proliferation via IL-6 secretion and activation of ERK1/2

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Abstract

Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) are frequently used in tissue engineering. Due to their strong tumor tropism, hMSC seem to be a promising vehicle for anticancer drugs. However, interactions between hMSC and cancer are ambiguous. Particularly the cytokines and growth factors seem to play an important role in cancer progression and metastasis. The present study evaluated the effects of hMSC on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines (FaDu and HLaC78) in vitro. hMSC released several cytokines and growth factors. FaDu and HLaC78 showed a significant enhancement of cell proliferation after cultivation with hMSC-conditioned medium as compared to control. This proliferation improvement was inhibited by the addition of anti-IL-6. The western blot showed an activation of Erk1/2 in FaDu and HLaC78 by hMSC-conditioned medium. HNSCC cell lines expressed EGFR. The current study confirms the importance of cytokines secreted by hMSC in cancer biology. Especially IL-6 seems to play a key role in cancer progression. Thus, the use of hMSC as a carrier for cancer therapy must be discussed critically. Future studies should evaluate the possibility of generating genetically engineered hMSC with, for example, the absence of IL-6 secretion.

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