Altered Tumor Plasticity after Different Cancer Cell Fusions with MSC.
While cell fusion demonstrates an important pathway during tissue development and regeneration of distinct organs, this process can also contribute to pathophysiological phenotypes during tumor progression. Hybrid cell formation after heterofusion between cancer cells and various other cell types within the tumor microenvironment is observed in vitro and in vivo. In particular, mesenchymal stroma/stem-like cells (MSC) perform diverse levels of communication with cancer cells by exhibiting anti- and pro-tumorigenic effects. During these cellular interactions, MSC can eventually fuse with cancer cells. Thereby, the newly generated disparate hybrid populations display aneuploidy associated with chromosomal instability. Based upon a subsequent post-hybrid selection process (PHSP), fused cancer cells can undergo apoptosis/necroptosis, senescence, dormancy, or a proliferative state by acquisition of new properties. Consequently, PHSP-surviving hybrid cancer cells demonstrate altered functionalities within the tumor tissue. This is accompanied by changes in therapeutic responsiveness and a different metastatic behavior. Accordingly, enhanced tumor plasticity interferes with successful therapeutic interventions and aggravates patient prognoses. The present review article focusses on fusion of MSC with different human cancer cells, in particular breast cancer populations and resulting characteristics of various cancer hybrid cells. Moreover, some mechanisms of cancer cell fusion are discussed together with multiple PHSP pathways.