The tumor microenvironment and its contribution to tumor evolution toward metastasis

Cancer cells acquire cell-autonomous capacities to undergo limitless proliferation and survival through the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. Nevertheless, the formation of a clinically relevant tumor requires support from the surrounding normal stroma, also referred to as the tumor microenvironment. Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts, leukocytes, bone marrow-derived cells, blood and lymphatic vascular endothelial cells present within the tumor microenvironment contribute to tumor progression. Recent evidence indicates that the microenvironment provides essential cues to the maintenance of cancer stem cells/cancer initiating cells and to promote the seeding of cancer cells at metastatic sites. Furthermore, inflammatory cells and immunomodulatory mediators present in the tumor microenvironment polarize host immune response toward specific phenotypes impacting tumor progression. A growing number of studies demonstrate a positive correlation between angiogenesis, carcinoma-associated fibroblasts, and inflammatory infiltrating cells and poor outcome, thereby emphasizing the clinical relevance of the tumor microenvironment to aggressive tumor progression. Thus, the dynamic and reciprocal interactions between tumor cells and cells of the tumor microenvironment orchestrate events critical to


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