Immune surveillance of human cancer: if the cytotoxic T-lymphocytes play the music, does the tumoral system call the tune?
Accumulating evidence indicates that the innate and adaptive immune systems participate in the recognition and destruction of cancer cells by a process known as cancer immunosurveillance. Tumor antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) are the major effectors in the immune response against tumor cells. The identification of tumor-associated antigen (TAA) recognized primarily by CD 8(+) T-lymphocytes has led to the development of several vaccination strategies that induce or potentiate specific immune responses. However, large established tumors, which are associated with the acquisition of tumor resistance to specific lysis, are usually not fully controlled by the immune system. Recently, it has become clear that the immune system not only protects the host against tumor development but also sculpts the immunogenic phenotype of a developing tumor and can favor the emergence of resistant tumor cell variants. Moreover, it has become obvious that the evasion of immunosurveillance by tumor cells is under the control of the tumor microenvironment complexity and plasticity. In this review, we will focus on some new mechanisms associated with the acquisition of tumor resistance to specific lysis during tumor progression, involving genetic instability, structural changes in cytoskeleton, and hypoxic stress. We will also discuss the interaction between CTLs and tumor endothelial cells, a major component of tumor stroma.