Abstract

With the recognition of obesity as a global health crisis, researchers have devoted greater effort to defining and understanding the pathophysiological molecular pathways regulating the biology of adipose tissue and obesity. Obesity, the excessive accumulation of adipose tissue due to hyperplasia and hypertrophy, has been linked to an increased incidence and aggressiveness of colon, hematological, prostate, and postmenopausal breast cancers. The increased morbidity and mortality of obesity-associated cancers have been attributed to higher levels of hormones, adipokines, and cytokines secreted by the adipose tissue. The increased amount of adipose tissue also results in higher numbers of adipose stromal/stem cells (ASCs). These ASCs have been shown to impact cancer progression directly through several mechanisms, including the increased recruitment of ASCs to the tumor site and increased production of cytokines and growth factors by ASCs and other cells within the tumor stroma. Emerging evidence indicates that obesity induces alterations in the biologic properties of ASCs, subsequently leading to enhanced tumorigenesis and metastasis of cancer cells. This review will discuss the links between obesity and cancer tumor progression, including obesity-associated changes in adipose tissue, inflammation, adipokines, and chemokines. Novel topics will include a discussion of the contribution of ASCs to this complex system with an emphasis on their role in the tumor stroma. The reciprocal and circular feedback loop between obesity and ASCs as well as the mechanisms by which ASCs from obese patients alter the biology of cancer cells and enhance tumorigenesis will be discussed. Stem Cells 2015;33:318–326

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