Solid tumors are complex organ-like structures. The potential of normal neighboring cells to contribute to the initiation, progression, and metastasis of epithelial-derived carcinomas has long been appreciated. However, the role of host cells has proven complex. Through multiple local and systemic mechanisms, nontransformed host cells can promote transition from a tumor-resistant to tumor-permissive environment, drive neoplastic transformation of epithelial cells, promote tumor growth, progression, and metastasis, but also constrain tumorigenesis. This complexity reflects the spatially and temporally dynamic involvement of multiple cell types and processes, including the development and recruitment of inflammatory, immune, endothelial, and mesenchymal stromal cells, and the remodeling of extracellular matrix. Our mechanistic understanding, as well as our ability to translate advances in our understanding of these mechanisms for therapeutic benefit, is rapidly advancing. Further insights will depend on delineating pathways that mediate the communication networks between inflammatory and immune cells with tumor and mesenchymal stromal cells and extracellular matrix. Here, we discuss the diversity of mesenchymal stromal cell populations and how context can dictate either their promotion or constraint of tumorigenesis. We review evidence for plasticity that allows for reprograming of stromal cells and how tumor immunogenicity and desmoplasia influence the balance of immune-independent and immune-dependent regulation of tumor growth. The pivotal roles of matrix and mesenchymal stromal cells in modulating inflammation, antitumor immunity, and the efficacy of immune-based therapies are discussed. These concepts have emerged from data obtained from tumors of multiple organs, but we focus mostly on studies of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. Cancer Immunol Res; 4(4); 269–78. ©2016 AACR.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.