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The Acidic Tumor Microenvironment as a Driver of Cancer

Authors
  • Boedtkjer, Ebbe
  • Pedersen, Stine F.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Physiology
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Feb 10, 2020
Volume
82
Pages
103–126
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021119-034627
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Acidic metabolic waste products accumulate in the tumor microenvironment because of high metabolic activity and insufficient perfusion. In tumors, the acidity of the interstitial space and the relatively well-maintained intracellular pH influence cancer and stromal cell function, their mutual interplay, and their interactions with the extracellular matrix. Tumor pH is spatially and temporally heterogeneous, and the fitness advantage of cancer cells adapted to extracellular acidity is likely particularly evident when they encounter less acidic tumor regions, for instance, during invasion. Through complex effects on genetic stability, epigenetics, cellular metabolism, proliferation, and survival, the compartmentalized pH microenvironment favors cancer development. Cellular selection exacerbates the malignant phenotype, which is further enhanced by acid-induced cell motility, extracellular matrix degradation, attenuated immune responses, and modified cellular and intercellular signaling. In this review, we discuss how the acidity of the tumor microenvironment influences each stage in cancer development, from dysplasia to full-blown metastatic disease.

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