Human fibroblasts from cancer patients: lifespan and transformed phenotype in vitro and role of mesenchyme in vivo

B. Azzarone, C. Chaponnier, P. Krief, M. Mareel, H. Suarez, A. Macieira-Coelho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human fibroblasts cultured in vitro can exhibit a different potential number of population doublings. In normal donors, the average number of population doublings is inversely related to the donor's age. An increased growth potential was detected in skin fibroblasts from breast cancer patients, independently of the donor's age. These cells responded in an abnormal way to 3 biological parameters: (1) colony formation in semisolid medium; (2) colony formation on monolayers of normal human epithelial cells; and (3) increase of saturation densities in overcrowded culture conditions. A third of these cultures, as well as skin fibroblasts from other cancer patients, at the plateau phase of growth exhibited a significant percentage of cells still synthesizing DNA. Exposure to overcrowding, limited in time, caused the selection of a cell subset which displayed new biological, biochemical and functional properties commonly found in transformed cells. The abnormal in vitro behavior of skin fibroblasts from breast cancer patients does not seem to be associated with the expression of oncofetal membrane markers (4F2, IL2 receptor) while the fibroblasts from patients with the adenomatosis of the colon and rectum (ACR) syndrome expressed the 4F2 antigen. This is the first time that the IL2 receptor is found on non-hematopoietic cells. Fibroblastic cells with abnormal characteristics, which may also present a decreased efficiency in organizing a primitive fibrin matrix, could represent in vivo an anarchistic milieu, favoring disturbed epithelial-stromal interactions and the emergence of the less structured tumor stromatic tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-325
Number of pages13
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1988


  • Alteration in vitro
  • Human fibroblasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Medicine(all)


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