The critical role of the tumor microenvironment in shaping natural killer cell-mediated anti-tumor immunity.
- Tumor Immunotherapy and Microenvironment
- Tumor Stroma Interactions
Considerable evidence has been gathered over the last 10 years showing that the tumor microenvironment (TME) is not simply a passive recipient of immune cells, but an active participant in the establishment of immunosuppressive conditions. It is now well documented that hypoxia, within the TME, affects the functions of immune effectors including natural killer (NK) cells by multiple overlapping mechanisms. Indeed, each cell in the TME, irrespective of its transformation status, has the capacity to adapt to the hostile TME and produce immune modulatory signals or mediators affecting the function of immune cells either directly or through the stimulation of other cells present in the tumor site. This observation has led to intense research efforts focused mainly on tumor-derived factors. Notably, it has become increasingly clear that tumor cells secrete a number of environmental factors such as cytokines, growth factors, exosomes, and microRNAs impacting the immune cell response. Moreover, tumor cells in hostile microenvironments may activate their own intrinsic resistance mechanisms, such as autophagy, to escape the effective immune response. Such adaptive mechanisms may also include the ability of tumor cells to modify their metabolism and release several metabolites to impair the function of immune cells. In this review, we summarize the different mechanisms involved in the TME that affect the anti-tumor immune function of NK cells.