The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays an important role in cancer progression. It can be divided into the basement membrane (BM) that supports epithelial/endothelial cell behavior and the interstitial matrix (IM) that supports the underlying stromal compartment. The major components of the ECM are the collagens. While breaching of the BM and turnover of e.g. type IV collagen, is a well described part of tumorigenesis, less is known regarding the impact on tumorigenesis from the collagens residing in the stroma. Here we give an introduction and overview to the link between tumorigenesis and stromal collagens, with focus on the fibrillar collagens type I, II, III, V, XI, XXIV and XXVII as well as type VI collagen. Moreover, we discuss the impact of the cells responsible for this altered stromal collagen remodeling, the cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and how these cells are key players in orchestrating the tumor microenvironment composition and tissue microarchitecture, hence also driving tumorigenesis and affecting response to treatment. Lastly, we discuss how specific collagen-derived biomarkers reflecting the turnover of stromal collagens and CAF activity may be used as tools to non-invasively interrogate stromal reactivity in the tumor microenvironment and predict response to treatment.
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