Molecular changes in cells called fibroblasts, which help provide support for tissues throughout the body, may explain why one type of colon cancer doesn’t respond to therapy, according to a team of researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine. Targeting these cells may be a way to make treatment more effective.
In a study published Nov. 17 in Developmental Cell the investigators examined cells called fibroblasts in CMS4, the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of colorectal cancer, to determine how these cancer-associated cells acquire traits that allow them to support malignancy in neighboring cells. CMS4 affects about a third of all colorectal cancer patients.
“There are two important components to this study,” said co-senior author Dr. Jorge Moscat, Homer T. Hirst III Professor of Oncology in Pathology and Vice-Chair for Experimental Pathology. “First, we have shown in a mechanistic way how these cancer-associated fibroblasts acquire the characteristics that they have. Second, we confirmed that what we discovered in our lab models also applies to patients, which begins to suggest how these findings could be useful in the clinic.”
Tumors are made up not only of cancer cells, but many other kinds of cells as well. These other cell types can influence how a tumor behaves and can have a profound effect on whether it responds to therapy, including treatment with immunotherapy.