The formation of a stroma comprising vascular structures and fibroblasts is a basic mechanism for a number of physiological and pathological processes such as wound healing and repair, inflammation and tumour formation. It has become evident in particular that the behaviour of tumours is not only determined by the neoplastic cells themselves but to a great deal also by the tumor stroma which plays multiple roles for tumour growth and propagation.
Important are not only tumour angiogenesis (a prerequisite for continuous tumour growth) but also lymphangiogenesis (the basis for lymphatic spread of neoplastic cells) and a contribution of stromal fibroblasts to tumour invasion through the secretion of matrix-degrading proteases. Interactions between tumour cell integrins and the extra-cellular matrix is an important mechanism of tumour cell migration. Stroma formation also plays a major role for many non-neoplastic diseases. In rheumatoid arthritis inflammatory angiogenesis contributes to the perpetuation of the disease and a protease-producing fibroblastic pannus destroys the joints.
The main problem of diabetic retinopathy is enhanced blood vessel formation. Stroma is finally indispensable for the re-vascularization of ischemic necrosis such as myocardial, brain or extremity infarcts. The molecular mechanisms underlying stroma formation have therefore become an important field of research in recent years carrying the potential for many novel therapeutic strategies among which are the application of recombinant growth factors, gene therapeutic approaches and the development of small molecular compounds which are particularly important for the modification of intracellular signal transduction or the inhibition of matrix degrading proteases. Not only academic institutions but also many young biotechnology companies promote this development.
The planned High Level Scientific Euroconference shall therefore present for young European researchers a state of the art on important aspects of the stromal reaction given by experts from both basic research and industrial institutions in order to directly exchange knowledge between these experts and the participants and to promote this novel and challenging field of research throughout Europe.