Studying the complex mechanisms of tumorigenesis and examining the interactions of neoplastic cells within tumor ecosystem are critical to explore the possibility of effective cancer treatment modalities. Dynamic tumor ecosystem is constantly evolving and is composed of tumor cells, extracellular matrix (ECM), secreted factors, and stromal cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF), pericytes, endothelial cells (EC), adipocytes, and immune cells. ECM remodeling by synthesis, contraction, and/or proteolytic degradation of ECM components and release of matrix-sequestered growth factors create a microenvironment that promotes EC proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis. Stromal CAFs release multiple angiogenic cues (angiogenic growth factors, cytokines, and proteolytic enzymes) which interact with ECM proteins, thus contribute to enhance proangiogenic/promigratory properties and support aggressive tumor growth.
Targeting angiogenesis brings about vascular changes including reduced adherence junction proteins, basement membrane and pericyte coverage, and increased leakiness. This facilitates ECM remodeling, metastatic colonization and chemoresistance. Owing to significant role of denser and stiffer ECM in inducing chemoresistance, direct or indirect targeting of ECM components is being reported as major axis of anticancer treatment. Exploring the agents targeting angiogenesis and ECM in a context specific manner may lead to reduced tumor burden by promoting conventional therapeutic effectiveness and overcoming the hurdles of therapy resistance.