Stromal cells and integrins: conforming to the needs of the tumor microenvironment

Neoplasia. 2009 Dec;11(12):1264-71. doi: 10.1593/neo.91302.


The microenvironment of a tumor is constituted of a heterogenous population of stromal cells, extracellular matrix components, and secreted factors, all of which make the tumor microenvironment distinct from that of normal tissue. Unlike healthy cells, tumor cells require these unique surroundings to metastasize, spread, and form a secondary tumor at a distant site. In this review, we discuss that stromal cells such as fibroblasts and immune cells including macrophages, their secreted factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor, transforming growth factor beta, and various chemokines, and the integrins that connect the various cell types play a particularly vital role in the survival of a growing tumor mass. Macrophages and fibroblasts are uniquely plastic cells because they are not only able to switch from tumor suppressing to tumor supporting phenotypes but also able to adopt various tumor-supporting functions based on their location within the microenvironment. Integrins serve as the backbone for all of these prometastatic operations because their function as cell-cell and cell-matrix signal transducers are important for the heterogenous components of the microenvironment to communicate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Integrins / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Stromal Cells / pathology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Integrins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A