The oncogenic potential of mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of cancer: Directions for future research

Eric N. Momin, Guillermo Vela, Hasan A. Zaidi, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) represent a promising new approach to the treatment of several diseases that are associated with dismal outcomes. These include myocardial damage, graft versus host disease, and possibly cancer. Although the potential therapeutic aspects of MSCs continue to be well-researched, the possible hazards of MSCs, and in particular their oncogenic capacity are poorly understood. This review addresses the oncogenic and tumor-supporting potential of MSCs within the context of cancer treatment. The risk for malignant transformation is discussed for each stage of the clinical lifecycle of MSCs. This includes malignant transformation in vitro during production phases, during insertion of potentially therapeutic transgenes, and finally in vivo via interactions with tumor stroma. The immunosuppressive qualities of MSCs, which may facilitate evasion of the immune system by a tumor, are also addressed. Limitations of the methods employed in clinical trials to date are reviewed, including the absence of long term follow-up and lack of adequate screening methods to detect formation of new tumors. Through discussions of the possible oncogenic and tumor-supporting mechanisms of MSCs, directions for future research are identified which may eventually facilitate the future clinical translation of MSCs for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Immunology Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Oncogenesis
  • Stem cell transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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