Chemokines are crucial autocrine and paracrine players in tumor development. In particular, CXCL12, through its receptors CXCR4 and CXCR7, affects tumor progression by controlling cancer cell survival, proliferation and migration, and, indirectly, via angiogenesis or recruiting immune cells. Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most prevalent primary malignant brain tumor in adults and despite current multimodal therapies it remains almost incurable. The aggressive and recurrent phenotype of GBM is ascribed to high growth rate, invasiveness to normal brain, marked angiogenesis, ability to escape the immune system and resistance to standard of care therapies. Tumor molecular and cellular heterogeneity severely hinders GBM therapeutic improvement. In particular, a subpopulation of chemo- and radio-therapy resistant tumorigenic cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) is believed to be the main responsible for tumor cell dissemination to the brain. GBM cells display heterogeneous expression levels of CXCR4 and CXCR7 that are overexpressed in CSCs, representing a molecular correlate for the invasive potential of GBM. The microenvironment contribution in GBM development is increasingly emphasized. An interplay exists between CSCs, differentiated GBM cells, and the microenvironment, mainly through secreted chemokines (e.g., CXCL12) causing recruitment of fibroblasts, endothelial, mesenchymal and inflammatory cells to the tumor, via specific receptors such as CXCR4. This review covers recent developments on the role of CXCL12/CXCR4-CXCR7 networks in GBM progression and the potential translational impact of their targeting. The biological and molecular understanding of the heterogeneous GBM cell behavior, phenotype and signaling is still limited. Progress in the identification of chemokine-dependent mechanisms that affect GBM cell survival, trafficking and chemo-attractive functions, opens new perspectives for development of more specific therapeutic approaches that include chemokine-based drugs.
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