Regulation of the anti-tumour immune response by cancer-associated fibroblasts

Semin Cancer Biol. 2014 Apr;25:69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2013.12.005. Epub 2014 Jan 7.


The microenvironment of established tumours is often immunosuppressed, and this allows tumours to grow and disseminate without being eliminated by the patient's immune system. The recent FDA approval of immunotherapies such as ipilimumab and sipuleucel-T that directly activate the adaptive and innate immune responses has triggered interest in developing other novel anti-cancer approaches that modulate the immune system. Understanding how the different constituents of the tumour microenvironment influence the immune system is thus crucial and is expected to generate a plethora of factors that can be targeted to boost immunity and trigger long lasting anti-tumour efficacy. Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are a crucial component of the tumour microenvironment. Through secretion of multiple growth factors, cytokines and proteases, CAFs are known to be key effectors for tumour progression and can promote cancer cell growth, invasiveness and angiogenesis. However, recent publications have also linked CAF biology to innate and adaptive immune cell recruitment and regulation. Here, we review recent findings on how CAFs can influence the immune status of tumours through direct and indirect interaction with immune cells and other key components of the tumour microenvironment.

Keywords: Cancer associated fibroblasts; Immune cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Fibroblasts / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunotherapy
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta