Cellular Oncology

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 727–738 | Cite as

The therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stem cells in lung cancer: benefits, risks and challenges

  • Lourdes Cortes-DericksEmail author
  • Domenico Galetta



Lung cancer is one of the most challenging diseases to treat. In the past decades standard therapy including surgery, chemo- and radiation therapy, alone or in combination has not changed the high mortality rate and poor prognosis. In recent years, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have emerged as putative therapeutic tools due to their intrinsic tumor tropism, anti-tumor and immunoregulatory properties. MSCs release biomolecules that are thought to exert the same beneficial effects as their cellular counterparts and, as such, they may offer practical possibilities of using MSC-secreted products. Owing to their innate affinity to home to tumor sites, MSCs have also gained interest as selective vehicles for the delivery of anti-cancer agents. However, MSCs are also known to confer pro-oncogenic effects, rendering them into double-sword weapons against neoplastic diseases.


Here, we present published data on the cell- and secretome-based therapeutic competences of MSCs, as well as on their potential as engineered delivery vectors for the treatment of lung cancer. Despite the controversial role of MSCs in the context of lung cancer therapy, current findings support hopeful perspectives to harness the potential of MSC-based regimens that may augment current treatment modalities in lung cancer.


Lung cancer Lung cancer therapy Mesenchymal stem cells Mesenchymal stem cell secretome Anti−/pro-tumorigenic effect 



human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells


bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell-conditioned medium


human mesenchymal stem cells


human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells


human lung mesenchymal stem cell-conditioned medium


human lung cancer-derived mesenchymal stem cells


human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells


adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells


oncostatin M


eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4 gamma 1


eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E


protein kinase B


phosphoinositide 3-kinase


signal transducer and activator of transcription 3


target of rapamycin


non-small cell lung cancer cell


Lewis lung cancer (mouse)


adenocarcinoma TSA-Lu + luciferase-positive mouse adenocarcinoma cells.




interleukin 2


Janus kinase 2


signal transducer and activator of transcription protein 3


natural killer cell


reactive oxygen species


epithelial-mesenchymal transition

IFN- γ

interferon gamma






interleukin 12


interleukin 24


interferon beta

IFN- γ

interferon gamma


pigment epithelium-derived factor




TNF-related apoptosis- inducing ligand


cytosine deaminase-uracil phosphoribosyltransferase protein


adenoviral vector-expressing TRAIL



We thank Prof. Dr. Stefan Kirschner for his continuous moral support.

Author’s contribution

LCD and DG contributed equally in the conception, organization of data and writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© International Society for Cellular Oncology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Division of Thoracic SurgeryEuropean Institute of OncologyMilanItaly

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