It has become clear that cancer is not merely a growth of autonomously proliferating cells, but that other non-malignant cell types are a functional part of the disease. Immune cells, fibroblasts, specialized mesenchymal cells and microvasculature together make up the tumour microenvironment and have functional interactions with tumour cells. Classical Hodgkin's lymphoma (cHL) is characterized by only a few malignant cells and an abundance of inflammatory cells. Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells are surrounded by T and B cells admixed with plasma cells, macrophages, eosinophils and mast cells. A constitutive activity of NF-kappaB and an altered JAK-STAT signalling pathway are part of the biological background associated with the increased expression of cytokines and cytokine receptors seen in HRS cells. Over-expression of the members of the TNF receptor family, especially CD30 and CD40, is a hallmark of HRS cells. cHL is a tumour where aberrant cytokine production contributes not only to the proliferation of HRS cells but also to the maintenance of an appropriate environment for the tumour cells. In addition, several chemokines contribute to the composition of the inflammatory background in cHL. This review summarizes updated information on the complex interactions between the HRS cells and their tissue microenvironment and highlights the development of newer therapeutic strategies aimed at targeting the non-malignant inflammatory/immune cellular components of HL that are involved in cancer cell growth and/or immune escape.
(c) 2010 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.