Profiling Bystanders

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Science  03 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5702, pp. 1653
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5702.1653a

Remarkable progress has been made in identifying the molecular features of tumor cells that mediate their survival and uncontrolled growth. Tumor cells do not grow in isolation, however, and recently there has been heightened interest in exploring the extent to which their behavior is influenced by nonmalignant cells in the tumor microenvironment.

A new study shows that, at least for one tumor type, the cells in the tumor micro-environment may determine the clinical course of the disease. Dave et al. carried out gene expression profiling analyses on tumor biopsy samples obtained at diagnosis from patients with follicular lymphoma, a cancer for which survival ranges from less than 12 months to more than 20 years. Surprisingly, the genes that served as the best predictors of patient survival were not expressed by the tumor cells themselves but rather by the nonmalignant immune cells infiltrating the tumors (T cells, macrophages, and follicular dendritic cells). These results not only underscore the critical interplay between tumor cells and their environment, but they provide an important starting point for identifying the immune cell-derived signals that influence the growth of follicular lymphoma cells—information that could lead to new therapies. — PAK

N. Engl. J. Med. 351, 2159 (2004).

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