A tumor is a complex “organ” composed of malignant cancer cells harboring genetic aberrations surrounded by a stroma comprised of non-malignant cells and an extracellular matrix. Considerable evidence has demonstrated that components of the genetically “normal” tumor stroma contribute to tumor progression and resistance to a wide array of treatment modalities, including radiotherapy. Cancer-associated fibroblasts can promote radioresistance through their secreted factors, contact-mediated signaling, downstream pro-survival signaling pathways, immunomodulatory effects, and cancer stem cell-generating role. The extracellular matrix can govern radiation responsiveness by influencing oxygen availability and controlling the stability and bioavailability of growth factors and cytokines. Immune status regarding the presence of pro-and anti-tumor immune cells can regulate how tumors respond to radiation therapy. Furthermore, stromal cells including endothelial cells and adipocytes can modulate radiosensitivity through their roles in angiogenesis and vasculogenesis, and their secreted adipokines, respectively. Thus, to successfully eradicate cancers, it is important to consider how tumor stroma components interact with and regulate the response to radiation. Detailed knowledge of these interactions will help build a preclinical rationale to support the use of stromal-targeting agents in combination with radiotherapy to increase radiosensitivity.
- Cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF)
- Extracellular matrix (ECM)
- Growth factors
- Immunomodulatory roles
- Pro-and anti-tumor immune cells
- Radiotherapy dose fractionation