Targeting tumor microenvironment: crossing tumor interstitial fluid by multifunctional nanomedicines

Bioimpacts. 2014;4(2):55-67. doi: 10.5681/bi.2014.021. Epub 2014 Jun 29.


Introduction: The genesis of cancer appears to be a complex matter, which is not simply based upon few genetic abnormalities/alteration. In fact, irregular microvasculature and aberrant interstitium of solid tumors impose significant pathophysiologic barrier functions against cancer treatment modalities, hence novel strategies should holistically target bioelements of tumor microenvironment (TME). In this study, we provide some overview and insights on TME and important strategies used to control the impacts of such pathophysiologic barriers.

Methods: We reviewed all relevant literature for the impacts of tumor interstitium and microvasculature within the TME as well as the significance of the implemented strategies.

Results: While tumorigenesis initiation seems to be in close relation with an emergence of hypoxia and alterations in epigenetic/genetic materials, large panoplies of molecular events emerge as intricate networks during oncogenesis to form unique lenient TME in favor of tumor progression. Within such irregular interstitium, immune system displays defective surveillance functionalities against malignant cells. Solid tumors show multifacial traits with coadaptation and self-regulation potentials, which bestow profound resistance against the currently used conventional chemotherapy and immunotherapy agents that target solely one face of the disease.

Conclusion: The cancerous cells attain unique abilities to form its permissive microenvironment, wherein (a) extracellular pH is dysregulated towards acidification, (b) extracellular matrix (ECM) is deformed, (c) stromal cells are cooperative with cancer cells, (d) immune system mechanisms are defective, (e) non-integrated irregular microvasculature with pores (120-1200 nm) are formed, and (h) interstitial fluid pressure is high. All these phenomena are against cancer treatment modalities. As a result, to control such abnormal pathophysiologic traits, novel cancer therapy strategies need to be devised using multifunctional nanomedicines and theranostics.

Keywords: Nanomedicines; Targeted therapy of cancer; Theranostics; Tumor interstitium; Tumor microcirculation; Tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review