The role of mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells in sarcoma: update and dispute

Jilong Yang, Zhiwu Ren, Xiaoling Du, Mengze Hao, Wenya Zhou


Sarcoma is the collective name for a relatively rare, yet heterogeneous group of cancers, most probably derived from mesenchymal tissues. There are currently over 50 sarcoma subtypes described underscoring the clinical and biologic diversity of this group of malignant cancers. This wide lineage range might suggest that sarcomas originate from either many committed different cell types or from a multipotent cell. Mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells (MSCs) are able to differentiate into many cell types and these multipotent cells have been isolated from several adult human tumors, making them available for research as well as potential beneficial therapeutical agents. Recent accomplishments in the field have broadened our knowledge of MSCs in relation to sarcoma origin and sarcoma treatment in therapeutic settings. However, numerous concerns and disputes have been raised about whether they are the putative originating cells of sarcoma and their questionable role in sarcomagenesis and progression. We summarize the update and dispute about MSC investigations in sarcomas including the definition, cell origin hypothesis, functional and descriptive assays, roles in sarcomagenesis and targeted therapy, with the purpose to give a comprehensive view of the role of MSCs in sarcomas.