While the cellular origin of lymphoma is often characterized by chromosomal translocations and other genetic aberrations, its growth and development into a malignant neoplasm is highly dependent upon its ability to escape natural host defenses. Neoplastic cells interact with a variety of non-malignant cells in the tumor milieu to create an immunosuppressive microenvironment. The resulting functional impairment and dysregulation of tumor-associated immune cells not only allows for passive growth of the malignancy but may even provide active growth signals upon which the tumor subsequently becomes dependent. In the past decade, the success of immune checkpoint blockade and adoptive cell transfer for relapsed or refractory lymphomas has validated immunotherapy as a possible treatment cornerstone. Here, we review the mechanisms by which lymphomas have been found to evade and even reprogram the immune system, including alterations in surface molecules, recruitment of immunosuppressive subpopulations, and secretion of anti-inflammatory factors. A fundamental understanding of the immune evasion strategies utilized by lymphomas may lead to better prognostic markers and guide the development of targeted interventions that are both safer and more effective than current standards of care.
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