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Oral Dis. 2009 Jan;15(1):8-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-0825.2008.01471.x. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

The tumour microenvironment: a novel target for cancer therapy.

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  • 1Tumour Angiogenesis Section, Surgery Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Cancer therapy is in the midst of a major paradigm shift. Traditionally, cancer treatments have focused on tumour cells. However, studies over the past few decades have demonstrated that cancer is a vastly complex entity with multiple components affecting a tumour's growth, invasion and metastasis. These components, collectively termed the 'tumour microenvironment', include endothelial cells, pericytes, fibroblasts, inflammatory cells, leucocytes and elements of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Biological agents that target components of the tumour microenvironment may provide an interesting alternative to traditional tumour cell-directed therapy. Because of the complexity of the tumour milieu, the most beneficial therapy will likely involve the combination of one or more agents directed at this new target. This review highlights recent preclinical and clinical studies involving agents that target tumour vasculature, leucocytes, pericytes, cancer-associated fibroblasts and ECM components. We pay particular attention to combination therapies targeting multiple components of the tumour microenvironment, and aim to demonstrate that this strategy holds promise for the future of cancer treatment.

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