Cancer cells in a solid tumor are supported by vasculature, extracellular matrix, nerves, and an immunological milieu collectively known as the tumor microenvironment. Elements within the tumor microenvironment can act in a coordinated fashion to support tumor growth, immune evasion, and metastasis. In this series, reviews curated by Series Editor Andrew Ewald highlight the tumor microenvironment’s complex effects in cancer, describing its modulation of immune cells and the tumor stroma as well as its role in disseminating metastases.
The tumor microenvironment profoundly influences the behavior of recruited leukocytes and tissue-resident immune cells. These immune cells, which inherently have environmentally driven plasticity necessary for their roles in tissue homeostasis, dynamically interact with tumor cells and the tumor stroma and play critical roles in determining the course of disease. Among these immune cells, neutrophils were once considered much more static within the tumor microenvironment; however, some of these earlier assumptions were the product of the notorious difficulty in manipulating neutrophils in vitro. Technological advances that allow us to study neutrophils in context are now revealing the true roles of neutrophils in the tumor microenvironment. Here we discuss recent data generated by some of these tools and how these data might be synthesized into more elegant ways of targeting these powerful and abundant effector immune cells in the clinic.
Amanda J. McFarlane, Frédéric Fercoq, Seth B. Coffelt, Leo M. Carlin
Continued thinning of the atmospheric ozone, which protects the earth from damaging ultraviolet radiation (UVR), will result in elevated levels of UVR reaching the earth’s surface, leading to a drastic increase in the incidence of skin cancer. In addition to promoting carcinogenesis in skin cells, UVR is a potent extrinsic driver of age-related changes in the skin known as “photoaging.” We are in the preliminary stages of understanding of the role of intrinsic aging in melanoma, and the tumor-permissive effects of photoaging on the skin microenvironment remain largely unexplored. In this Review, we provide an overview of the impact of UVR on the skin microenvironment, addressing changes that converge or diverge with those observed in intrinsic aging. Intrinsic and extrinsic aging promote phenotypic changes to skin cell populations that alter fundamental processes such as melanogenesis, extracellular matrix deposition, inflammation, and immune response. Given the relevance of these processes in cancer, we discuss how photoaging might render the skin microenvironment permissive to melanoma progression.
Asurayya Worrede, Stephen M. Douglass, Ashani T. Weeraratna
Many solid cancers metastasize to the bone and bone marrow (BM). This process may occur even before the diagnosis of primary tumors, as evidenced by the discovery of disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) in patients without occult malignancies. The cellular fates and metastatic progression of DTCs are determined by complicated interactions between cancer cells and BM niches. Not surprisingly, these niches also play important roles in normal biology, including homeostasis and turnover of skeletal and hematopoiesis systems. In this Review, we summarize recent findings on functions of BM niches in bone metastasis (BoMet), particularly during the early stage of colonization. In light of the rich knowledge of hematopoiesis and osteogenesis, we highlight how DTCs may progress into overt BoMet by taking advantage of niche cells and their activities in tissue turnover, especially those related to immunomodulation and bone repair.
Aaron M. Muscarella, Sergio Aguirre, Xiaoxin Hao, Sarah M. Waldvogel, Xiang H.-F. Zhang
Treatment resistance leads to cancer patient mortality. Therapeutic approaches that employ synthetic lethality to target mutational vulnerabilities in key tumor cell signaling pathways have proven effective in overcoming therapeutic resistance in some cancers. Yet, tumors are organs composed of malignant cells residing within a cellular and noncellular stroma. Tumor evolution and resistance to anticancer treatment are mediated through a dynamic and reciprocal dialogue with the tumor microenvironment (TME). Accordingly, expanding tumor cell synthetic lethality to encompass contextual synthetic lethality has the potential to eradicate tumors by targeting critical TME circuits that promote tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. In this Review, we summarize current knowledge about the TME and discuss its role in treatment. We outline the concept of tumor cell–specific synthetic lethality and describe therapeutic approaches to expand this paradigm to leverage TME synthetic lethality to improve cancer therapy.
Kevin J. Metcalf, Alaa Alazzeh, Zena Werb, Valerie M. Weaver