Fibroblast activation and senescence in oral cancer.
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There is now compelling evidence that the tumour stroma plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cancers of epithelial origin. The pre-eminent cell type of the stroma is carcinoma-associated fibroblasts. These cells demonstrate remarkable heterogeneity with activation and senescence being common stress responses. In this review, we summarise the part that these cells play in cancer, particularly oral cancer, and present evidence to show that activation and senescence reflect a unified programme of fibroblast differentiation. We report advances concerning the senescent fibroblast metabolome, mechanisms of gene regulation in these cells and ways in which epithelial cell adhesion is dysregulated by the fibroblast secretome. We suggest that the identification of fibroblast stress responses may be a valuable diagnostic tool in the determination of tumour behaviour and patient outcome. Further, the fact that stromal fibroblasts are a genetically stable diploid cell population suggests that they may be ideal therapeutic targets and early work in this context is encouraging.