Mesodermal cells signal to neighboring epithelial cells to modulate their proliferation in both normal and disease states. We adapted a Caenorhabditis elegans organogenesis model to enable a genome-wide mesodermal-specific RNAi screen and discovered 39 factors in mesodermal cells that suppress the proliferation of adjacent Ras pathway-sensitized epithelial cells. These candidates encode components of protein complexes and signaling pathways that converge on the control of chromatin dynamics, cytoplasmic polyadenylation, and translation. Stromal fibroblast-specific deletion of mouse orthologs of several candidates resulted in the hyper-proliferation of mammary gland epithelium. Furthermore, a 33-gene signature of human orthologs was selectively enriched in the tumor stroma of breast cancer patients, and depletion of these factors from normal human breast fibroblasts increased proliferation of co-cultured breast cancer cells. This cross-species approach identified unanticipated regulatory networks in mesodermal cells with growth-suppressive function, exposing the conserved and selective nature of mesodermal-epithelial communication in development and cancer.