An apoptosis-driven “onco-regenerative niche”: roles of tumour-associated macrophages and extracellular vesicles

Christopher Gregory, Margaret Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cell-death programme, apoptosis, is well established as a tumour suppressor mechanism. Paradoxically, high levels of apoptosis in tumours are closely coupled with poor prognosis. Indeed, where it has been studied, cell loss is a striking feature of high-grade cancers, illustrating the importance of considering malignant disease as an imbalance between cell gain and cell loss that favours cell gain rather than as a unidirectional disorder of cell gain alone. In addition to orchestrating cell loss, apoptosis can signal regenerative responses – for example compensatory proliferation – in neighbouring cells. Accumulating evidence suggests that normal tissue repair and regenerative processes are hijacked in the malignant tissue microenvironment such that cancer may be likened to a “wound that fails to stop repairing”. We have proposed that a critical requirement for the successful growth, progression and re-growth of malignant tumours is a complex milieu, conceptually termed the “onco-regenerative niche”, which is composed, in addition to transformed neoplastic cells, of a network of normal cells and factors activated as if in tissue repair and regeneration. Our work is based around the hypothesis that tumour cell apoptosis, macrophage activation and endothelial activation are key, interlinked elements of the onco-regenerative niche and that apoptotic tumour cell-derived extracellular vesicles provide critical intercellular communication vehicles of the niche. In aggressive B-cell lymphoma, tumour cell apoptosis promotes both angiogenesis and the accumulation of pro-tumour macrophages in the lymphoma microenvironment. Furthermore, apoptotic lymphoma-derived extracellular vesicles have potent pro-tumour potential. These findings have important implications for the roles of apoptosis in regulation of malignant diseases and for the efficacy of apoptosis-inducing anti-cancer therapies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2017


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