Follicular lymphoma (FL) is the prototypical model of indolent B cell lymphoma displaying a strong dependence on a specialized cell microenvironment mimicking normal germinal center. Within malignant cell niches in invaded lymph nodes and bone marrow, external stimuli provided by infiltrating stromal cells make a pivotal contribution to disease development, progression, and drug resistance. The crosstalk between FL B cells and stromal cells is bidirectional, causing activation of both partners. In agreement, FL stromal cells exhibit specific phenotypic, transcriptomic, and functional properties. This review highlights the critical pathways involved in the direct tumor-promoting activity of stromal cells but also their role in the organization of FL cell niche through the recruitment of accessory immune cells and their polarization to a B cell supportive phenotype. Finally, deciphering the interplay between stromal cells and FL cells provides potential new therapeutic targets with the aim to mobilize malignant cells outside their protective microenvironment and increase their sensitivity to conventional treatment.
Keywords: B cells; bone marrow; cell interactions; lymph nodes; stromal cells.