Cancer gene therapies are usually designed either to express wild-type copies of tumor suppressor genes or to exploit tumor-associated phenotypic changes to endow selective cytotoxicity. However, these approaches become less relevant to cancers that contain many independent mutations, and the situation is made more complex by our increased understanding of clonal evolution of tumors, meaning that different metastases and even regions of the same tumor mass have distinct mutational and phenotypic profiles. In contrast, the relatively genetically stable tumor microenvironment (TME) therefore provides an appealing therapeutic target, particularly since it plays an essential role in promoting cancer growth, immune tolerance, and acquired resistance to many therapies. Recently, a variety of different TME-targeted gene therapy and armed oncolytic strategies have been explored, with particular success observed in strategies targeting the cancer stroma, reducing tumor vasculature, and repolarizing the immunosuppressive microenvironment. Herein, we review the progress of these TME-targeting approaches and try to highlight those showing the greatest promise.
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combination therapy, gene therapy, immunotherapy, oncolytic virus, tumor microenvironment