The tumor microenvironment: a critical determinant of neoplastic evolution

Eur J Cell Biol. 2003 Nov;82(11):539-48. doi: 10.1078/0171-9335-00346.


Evolution of neoplastic cells has generally been regarded as a cumulative intrinsic process resulting in altered cell characteristics enabling enhanced growth properties, evasion of apoptotic signals, unlimited replicative potential and gain of properties enabling the ability to thrive in ectopic tissues and in some cases, ability to metastasize. Recently however, the role of the neoplastic microenvironment has become appreciated largely due to the realization that tumors are not merely masses of neoplastic cells, but instead, are complex tissues composed of both a non-cellular (matrix proteins) and a cellular 'diploid' component (tumor-associated fibroblasts, capillary-associated cells and inflammatory cells), in addition to the ever-evolving neoplastic cells. With these realizations, it has become evident that early and persistent inflammatory responses observed in or around many solid tumors, play important roles in establishing an environment suitable for neoplastic progression by providing diverse factors that alter tissue homeostasis. Using cutaneous melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma as tumor models, we review the current literature focussing on inflammatory and tumor-associated fibroblast responses as critical mediators of neoplastic progression for these malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / blood supply
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / blood supply
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Stromal Cells / cytology*
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Collagen