Macrophages direct tumour histology and clinical outcome in a colon cancer model

J Pathol. 2005 Oct;207(2):147-55. doi: 10.1002/path.1830.


Macrophages generally constitute a major component of the tumour stroma. Although conventionally considered to be cytotoxic effector cells, macrophages have recently been described as promoters of tumour progression. The present study shows that selective depletion of peritoneal or liver macrophages prior to CC531 tumour cell inoculation resulted in highly differentiated tumours in rats. In contrast, tumours from control rats, in which macrophages are abundantly present, showed a desmoplastic stromal reaction with hallmark features of malignancy, such as neovascularization and matrix remodelling, indicating that the presence of macrophages is associated with malignant histopathological differentiation. Remarkably, macrophage-depleted rats, bearing highly differentiated tumours, had a worse prognosis, as they displayed a higher tumour load and poorer survival. Thus, while macrophages direct tumours towards malignant tumour histology, their role in anti-tumour defence is important. The selective inhibition of macrophage functions involved in malignant progression without interfering with cytotoxic ability may therefore identify important new targets for cancer therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / pathology
  • Male
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tissue Array Analysis / methods


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm