Semaphorin Signals Tweaking the Tumor Microenvironment

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Solid tumors not only comprise malignant cells but also other nonmalignant cell types, forming a unique microenvironment that can strongly influence the behavior of tumor cells. Recent advances in the understanding of cancer biology have highlighted the functional role of semaphorins. In fact, semaphorins form a family of molecular signals known to guide and control cell migration during embryo development and in adults. Tumor cells express semaphorins as well as their receptors, plexins and neuropilins. It has been shown that semaphorin signaling can regulate tumor cell behavior. Moreover, semaphorins are important regulators of tumor angiogenesis. Conversely, very little is known about the functional relevance of semaphorin signals for tumor-infiltrating stromal cells, such as leukocytes. In this chapter, we review the current knowledge on the functional role of semaphorins in cancer progression, and we focus on the emerging role of semaphorins in mediating the cross talk between tumor cells and different tumor stromal cells.

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