Immune microenvironment in tumor progression: characteristics and challenges for therapy

J Oncol. 2012;2012:608406. doi: 10.1155/2012/608406. Epub 2012 Aug 8.


The tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in cancer development, progression, and control. The molecular and cellular nature of the tumor immune microenvironment influences disease outcome by altering the balance of suppressive versus cytotoxic responses in the vicinity of the tumor. Recent developments in systems biology have improved our understanding of the complex interactions between tumors and their immunological microenvironment in various human cancers. Effective tumor surveillance by the host immune system protects against disease, but chronic inflammation and tumor "immunoediting" have also been implicated in disease development and progression. Accordingly, reactivation and maintenance of appropriate antitumor responses within the tumor microenvironment correlate with a good prognosis in cancer patients. Improved understanding of the factors that shape the tumor microenvironment will be critical for the development of effective future strategies for disease management. The manipulation of these microenvironmental factors is already emerging as a promising tool for novel cancer treatments. In this paper, we summarize the various roles of the tumor microenvironment in cancer, focusing on immunological mediators of tumor progression and control, as well as the significant challenges for future therapies.