Autocrine Factors Produced by Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Response to Cell–Cell Contact Inhibition Have Anti-Tumor Properties

Jerry P. Chen, Rong Li, Jean X. Jiang, Xiao Dong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recently, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies have been questioned as MSCs are capable of both promoting and inhibiting tumorigenesis. Both MSCs and tumor cells replicate to increase their population size; however, MSCs, but not tumor cells, stop dividing when they reach confluence due to cell–cell contact inhibition and then differentiate. We hypothesized that contact inhibition results in the production of effector molecules by confluent MSCs and these effectors are capable of suppressing tumor cell growth. To test this hypothesis, we co-cultured breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) with either confluent or sub-confluent bone-marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs); in addition, we treated various tumor cells with conditioned media (CM) obtained from either confluent or sub-confluent BM-MSCs. The results showed that the growth of tumor cells co-cultured with confluent BM-MSCs or treated with CM obtained from confluent BM-MSCs was inhibited, and this effect was significantly stronger than that seen with tumor cells co-cultured with sub-confluent BM-MSCs or CM obtained from sub-confluent BM-MSCs. Subcutaneous tumor formation was completely prevented by the inoculation of tumor cells mixed with CM. In the future, soluble anti-tumor effectors, produced by confluent MSCs, may be used as cell-free therapeutics; this approach provides a solution to current concerns associated with cell-based therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2150
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • anti-tumorigenesis
  • inhibitory effects of cell–cell contact inhibition on tumor cell growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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