A prototypic matricellular protein in the tumor microenvironment—Where there's SPARC, there's fire



Within the tumor microenvironment is a dynamic exchange between cancer cells and their surrounding stroma. This complex biologic system requires carefully designed models to understand the role of its stromal components in carcinogenesis, tumor progression, invasion, and metastasis. Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) is a prototypic matricellular protein at the center of this exchange. Two decades of basic science research combined with recent whole genome analyses indicate that SPARC is an important player in vertebrate evolution, normal development, and maintenance of normal tissue homeostasis. Therefore, SPARC might also play an important role in the tumor microenvironment. Clinical evidence indicates that SPARC expression correlates with tumor progression, but tightly controlled animal models have shown that the role of SPARC in tumor progression is dependent on tissue and tumor cell type. In this Prospectus, we review the current understanding of SPARC in the tumor microenvironment and discuss current and future investigations of SPARC and tumor–stromal interactions that require careful consideration of growth factors, cytokines, proteinases, and angiotropic factors that might influence SPARC activity and tumor progression. J. Cell. Biochem. 104: 721–732, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.