Safety and Homing of Human Dental Pulp Stromal Cells in Head and Neck Cancer

Greet Merckx, Melissa Lo Monaco, Ivo Lambrichts, Uwe Himmelreich, Annelies Bronckaers, Esther Wolfs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Head and neck cancer (HNC) is one of the most common cancers, associated with a huge mortality and morbidity. In order to improve patient outcomes, more efficient and targeted therapies are essential. Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) express tumour homing capacity, which could be exploited to target anti-cancer drug delivery to the tumour region and reduce adverse side-effects. Nevertheless, dental pulp stromal cells (DPSCs), an MSC-like population present in teeth, could offer important clinical benefits because of their easy isolation and superior proliferation compared to BM-MSCs. Therefore, we aimed to elucidate the tumour homing and safe usage of DPSCs to treat HNC. Methods: The in vivo survival as well as the effect of intratumourally administered DPSCs on tumour aggressiveness was tested in a HNC xenograft mouse model by using bioluminescence imaging (BLI), (immuno)histology and qRT-PCR. Furthermore, the in vitro and in vivo tumour homing capacity of DPSCs towards a HNC cell line were evaluated by a transwell migration assay and BLI, respectively. Results: Intratumourally injected DPSCs survived for at least two weeks in the tumour micro-environment and had no significant influence on tumour morphology, growth, angiogenesis and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. In addition, DPSCs migrated towards tumour cells in vitro, which could not be confirmed after their in vivo intravenous, intraperitoneal or peritumoural injection under the tested experimental conditions. Conclusions: Our research suggests that intratumourally delivered DPSCs might be used as safe factories for the continuous delivery of anti-cancer drugs in HNC. Nevertheless, further optimization as well as efficacy studies are necessary to understand and improve in vivo tumour homing and determine the optimal experimental set-up of stem cell-based cancer therapies, including dosing and timing. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1619-1634
Number of pages16
JournalStem Cell Reviews and Reports
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Angiogenesis
  • Cell survival
  • Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Human dental pulp stromal cells
  • Tumour homing
  • Xenograft mouse model


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