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Clin Chem. 2013 Jan;59(1):85-93. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2012.185363. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

Targeting the tumor microenvironment for cancer therapy.

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Laboratory of Tumor and Development Biology, GIGA-Cancer, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.



With the emergence of the tumor microenvironment as an essential ingredient of cancer malignancy, therapies targeting the host compartment of tumors have begun to be designed and applied in the clinic.


The malignant features of cancer cells cannot be manifested without an important interplay between cancer cells and their local environment. The tumor infiltrate composed of immune cells, angiogenic vascular cells, lymphatic endothelial cells, and cancer-associated fibroblastic cells contributes actively to cancer progression. The ability to change these surroundings is an important property by which tumor cells are able to acquire some of the hallmark functions necessary for tumor growth and metastatic dissemination. Thus in the clinical setting the targeting of the tumor microenvironment to encapsulate or destroy cancer cells in their local environment has become mandatory. The variety of stromal cells, the complexity of the molecular components of the tumor stroma, and the similarity with normal tissue present huge challenges for therapies targeting the tumor microenvironment. These issues and their interplay are addressed in this review. After a decade of intensive clinical trials targeting cellular components of the tumor microenvironment, more recent investigations have shed light on the important role in cancer progression played by the noncellular stromal compartment composed of the extracellular matrix.


A better understanding of how the tumor environment affects cancer progression should provide new targets for the isolation and destruction of cancer cells via interference with the complex crosstalk established between cancer cells, host cells, and their surrounding extracellular matrix.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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