The Cross Talk between Cancer Stem Cells/Cancer Initiating Cells and Tumor Microenvironment: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle for the Efficient Targeting of these Cells with Immunotherapy

Cancer Microenviron. 2019 Dec;12(2-3):133-148. doi: 10.1007/s12307-019-00233-1. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Cancer Stem Cells/Cancer Initiating Cells (CSCs/CICs) is a rare sub-population within a tumor that is responsible for tumor formation, progression and resistance to therapies. The interaction between CSCs/CICs and tumor microenvironment (TME) can sustain "stemness" properties and promote their survival and plasticity. This cross-talk is also pivotal in regulating and modulating CSC/CIC properties. This review will provide an overview of the mechanisms underlying the mutual interaction between CSCs/CICs and TME. Particular focus will be dedicated to the immunological profile of CSCs/CICs and its role in orchestrating cancer immunosurveillance. Moreover, the available immunotherapy strategies that can target CSCs/CICs and of their possible implementation will be discussed. Overall, the dissection of the mechanisms regulating the CSC/CIC-TME interaction is warranted to understand the plasticity and immunoregulatory properties of stem-like tumor cells and to achieve complete eradications of tumors through the optimization of immunotherapy.

Keywords: Adaptive immune responses; Cancer stem cells/Cancer initiating cells; Immunosurveillance; Immunotherapy; Innate immune responses; Tumor microenvironment.