The development of cancer stems from genetic instability and changes in genomic sequences, and hence, the heterogeneity exhibited by tumors is integral to the nature of cancer itself. Tumor heterogeneity can be further altered by factors that are not cancer cell intrinsic, i.e., by the microenvironment, including the patient’s immune responses to tumors and administered therapies (immunotherapies, chemotherapies, and/or radiation therapies). The focus of this review is the impact of tumor heterogeneity on the interactions between immune cells and the tumor, taking into account that heterogeneity can exist at several levels. These levels include heterogeneity within an individual tumor, within an individual patient (particularly between the primary tumor and metastatic lesions), among the subtypes of a specific type of cancer, or within cancers that originate from different tissues. Because of the potential for immunity (either the natural immune system or via immunotherapeutics) to halt the progression of cancer, major clinical significance exists in understanding the impact of tumor heterogeneity on the associations between immune cells and tumor cells. Increased knowledge of why, whether, and how immune-tumor interactions occur provides the means to guide these interactions and improve outcomes for patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research