Open access peer-reviewed Edited Volume

Fibroblasts - Advances in Cancer, Autoimmunity and Inflammation

Mojca Frank Bertoncelj

University Hospital of Zurich

A junior group leader in stromal cell biology in systemic autoimmune diseases at the University Hospital Zurich, participating project member of the Human Cell Atlas, and recipient of different international awards for arthritis research


Katja Lakota

Ljubljana University Medical Centre

Translational scientists with a focus on new pharmacologic targets actively promoting the resolution of persistent cell activation in rheumatic diseases and personalization of treatment.


Fibroblast HOX Code Developmental Genes Immunostromal Cell Interface Structural Immunity Heterogeneity Plasticity Reactivity Fibroblasts in Cancer Fibrosis Matrix Destruction Chronic Inflammation

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About the book

Fibroblasts are vital structural cells of the human body with core roles in homeostasis and disease. While primarily recognized as producers of extracellular matrix and central effectors in wound healing, using them as feeder layer in cell culturing shed some understanding of their nurturing roles for other cell types. Recent years have brought remarkable advances in molecular characterization of fibroblasts, decoding their site-specificity, reactivity, heterogeneity and plasticity across the human body in health and disease. This knowledge has substantially changed our conventional views about fibroblast roles in human disease. In 2021, fibroblasts are widely recognized for their active contribution to chronicity, recurrence, progression and therapeutic resistance of many human pathologies, including cancer, chronic inflammatory and systemic autoimmune diseases.

This book provides essential insights into shared and unique characteristics of human and murine fibroblasts across the body, their crosstalk with the innate and adaptive immune systems, other tissue-resident stromal cells and cancer cells, thereby explaining fibroblast roles in shaping tissue microenvironments and structural immunity. We discuss the recent discoveries about homeostatic and pathogenic fibroblast actions in mechanotransduction, tissue remodeling, repair, inflammation, angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, particularly in cancer and autoimmune diseases. Metabolic reprogramming of fibroblasts is reviewed as a fundamental mechanism in pathological fibroblast switching from a quiescent to an activated cell phenotype. We delve into the embryonically-imprinted positional memories of tissue-resident fibroblasts and review their implications for the organ-specific tropism of human pathologies such as arthritis and cancer metastasis (seed and soil principle). Finally, we utilize the available fibroblast knowledge to propose novel concepts for therapeutic targeting of fibroblasts in human disease focusing on drug discovery, shared and unique fibroblast mechanisms and the capacity for therapeutic repurposing across human pathologies.

Publishing process

Book initiated and editor appointed

Date completed: September 14th 2020

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Deadline for chapter proposals: October 12th 2020

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Deadline for full chapters: December 11th 2020

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Full chapters peer reviewed

Review results due: March 1st 2021

Full chapter manuscripts are screened for plagiarism and undergo a Main Editor Peer Review. Results are sent to authors within 30 days of submission, with suggestions for rounds of revisions.

Book compiled, published and promoted

Expected publication date: April 30th 2021

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About the editor

Mojca Frank Bertoncelj

University Hospital of Zurich

Mojca Frank Bertoncelj graduated valedictorian from Medical studies at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2005 and defended her PhD in Biomedicine summa cum laude in 2010 at the same university. In 2011, she moved to the Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland as a research fellow of the Articulum Fellowship in Arthritis and Pain, developing a keen interest in tissue fibroblast pathology in systemic autoimmune diseases. The recent research of Dr Frank Bertoncelj and PD Dr Caroline Ospelt in arthritis demonstrated that joint-specific phenotypes of synovial fibroblast could underlie the joint-specific tropism of arthritis with implications for arthritis therapy and genetic risk. This research led to evolving broader concepts of tissue tropism in rheumatic diseases and induced a significant shift in stromal cell pathology, putting fibroblast diversity on the international stage in arthritis research. For this research, Dr Frank-Bertoncelj was awarded the "Walter-Siegenthaler Medaille in Silber" Research Award 2018. Currently, Dr Frank Bertoncelj is a junior group leader at the Center of Experimental Rheumatology. Her research goals are to understand the stromal cell pathology and immunostromal cell interface in systemic autoimmune diseases and leverage the generated knowledge for designing ex vivo 3D organ platforms, uncovering novel drug targets and paving the way to precision medicine in these diseases. She nurtures internationally collaborative and multidisciplinary research that integrates technologies and ideas from data scientists, molecular biologists, engineers and clinicians to advance the knowledge about stromal cell pathology in human diseases. The group investigates different model diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis and giant cell arteritis, enabling studies of diverse stromal and immunostromal cell networks across a variety of human tissues and autoimmune pathologies. They utilise clinical patient samples, ex vivo tissue explants and cultured primary cells from autoimmune patients and apply diverse methodologies from molecular biology, functional genomics, epigenomics, single-cell omics and spatial transcriptomics. Additionally, Dr Frank Bertoncelj serves as an Editorial Board member of Rheumatology and a reviewer for national science foundations and scientific journals, including Nature Communication and Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

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