Paracrine interactions of cancer-associated fibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial cells: tumor allies and foes

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Tumor stroma is composed of many cellular subtypes, of which the most abundant are fibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial cells. During the process of tissue injury, these three cellular subtypes must coordinate their activity to efficiently contribute to tissue regeneration. In tumor, this mechanism is hijacked by cancer cells, which rewire the interaction of stromal cells to benefit tumor development. The present review aims at summarizing most relevant information concerning both pro-tumorigenic and anti-tumorigenic actions implicating the three stromal cell subtypes as well as their mutual interactions.

Recent findings

Although stromal cells are generally regarded as tumor-supportive and at will manipulated by cancer cells, several novel studies point at many defaults in cancer cell-mediated stromal reprograming. Indeed, parts of initial tissue-protective and homeostatic functions of the stromal cells remain in place even after tumor development. Both tumor-supportive and tumor-suppressive functions have been well described for macrophages, whereas similar results are emerging for fibroblasts and endothelial cells.

Summary

Recent success of immunotherapies have finally brought the long awaited proof that stroma is key for efficient tumor targeting. However, a better understanding of paracrine stromal interactions is needed in order to encourage drug development not only aiming at disruption of tumor-supportive communication but also re-enforcing, existing, tumor-suppressive mechanisms.

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