Cancer: a mirrored room between tumor bulk and tumor microenvironment

Hernández-Camarero, P.; López-Ruiz, E.; Marchal, J.A.; Perán, M.

Revista: Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research

ISSN: 1756-9966

Año de publicación: 2021

Volumen: 40

Número: 1

DOI: 10.1186/S13046-021-02022-5


It has been well documented that the tumor microenvironment (TME) plays a key role in the promotion of drug resistance, the support of tumor progression, invasiveness, metastasis, and even the maintenance of a cancer stem-like phenotype. Here, we reviewed TME formation presenting it as a reflection of a tumor’s own organization during the different stages of tumor development. Interestingly, functionally different groups of stromal cells seem to have specific spatial distributions within the TME that change as the tumor evolves into advanced stage progression which correlates with the fact that cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) are located in the edges of solid tumor masses in advanced tumors. We also focus on the continuos feedback that is established between a tumor and its surroundings. The “talk” between tumor mass cells and TME stromal cells, marks the evolution of both interlocuting cell types. For instance, the metabolic and functional transformations that stromal cells undergo due to tumor corrupting activity. Moreover, the molecular basis of metastatic spread is also approached, making special emphasis on the site-specific pre-metastatic niche formation as another reflection of the primary tumor molecular signature. Finally, several therapeutic approaches targeting primary TME and pre-metastatic niche are suggested. For instance, a systematic analysis of the TME just adjacent to the tumor mass to establish the proportion of myofibroblasts-like cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) which may in turn correspond to stemness and metastases-promotion. Or the implementation of “re-education” therapies consisting of switching tumor-supportive stromal cells into tumor-suppressive ones. In summary, to improve our clinical management of cancer, it is crucial to understand and learn how to manage the close interaction between TME and metastasis.