Microenvironmental Determinants of Pancreatic Cancer

Hessmann, E., Buchholz, S. M., Demir, I. E., Singh, S. K., Gress, T. M., Ellenrieder, V., and Neesse, A. (2020). Physiol Rev 100, 1707-1751


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) belongs to the most lethal solid tumors in humans. A histological hallmark feature of PDAC is the pronounced tumor microenvironment (TME) that dynamically evolves during tumor progression. The TME consists of different non-neoplastic cells such as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), immune cells, endothelial cells and neurons. Furthermore, abundant extracellular matrix (ECM) components such as collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA) as well as matricellular proteins create a highly dynamic and hypovascular TME with multiple biochemical and physical interactions among the various cellular and acellular components that promote tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. In recent years, intensive research efforts have resulted in a significantly improved understanding of the biology and pathophysiology of the TME in PDAC, and novel stroma-targeted approaches are emerging that may help to improve the devastating prognosis of PDAC patients. However, none of anti-stromal therapies have been approved in patients so far, and there is still a large discrepancy between multiple successful preclinical results and subsequent failure in clinical trials. Furthermore, recent findings suggest that parts of the TME may also possess tumor-restraining properties rendering tailored therapies even more challenging.