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The Tumor Microenvironment in Follicular Lymphoma: Its Pro-Malignancy Role with Therapeutic Potential

In the follicular lymphoma (FL) microenvironment, CXCR5+ICOS+PD1+BCL6+ follicular helper T (Tfh) cells, which closely correlate with FL B cells in neoplastic follicles, play a major role in supporting FL. Interleukin-4 secreted by Tfh cells triggers the upregulation of the lymphocyte chemoattractant CXCL12 in stromal cell precursors, in particular by fibroblastic reticular cells (FRCs). In turn, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be committed to FRC differentiation in the bone marrow and lymph nodes involved by FL. Noteworthy, MSCs can promote the differentiation of Tfh cells into highly immunosuppressive T-follicular regulatory cells. The tumor suppressor HVEM is highly mutated in FL cells, and its deficiency increases Tfh cell frequency. In contrast, PI3Kδ inhibition impedes the recruitment of Tfh/regulatory T cells and impairs the proliferation of follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) and FDC-induced angiogenesis. Since TIGIT ligands are expressed by FDCs, the immune checkpoint receptor TIGIT plays an important role in tumor-infiltrating T cells. Thus, TIGIT blockade might invigorate cytotoxic T cells in the FL microenvironment. Given their potential to simultaneously reduce the neoplastic B cells, Tfh, and TFR cells could also reinforce the effects of the cytotoxic T cells. This combinatory strategy should be explored as a treatment option to tackle FL.

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