Tumor immunosurveillance is a well-established mechanism for regulation of tumor growth. In this regard, most studies have focused on the role of T- and NK-cells as the critical immune effector cells. However, macrophages play a major role in the recognition and clearance of foreign, aged, and damaged cells. Macrophage phagocytosis is negatively regulated via the receptor SIRPalpha upon binding to CD47, a ubiquitously expressed protein. We recently showed that CD47 is up-regulated in myeloid leukemia and migrating hematopoietic progenitors, and that the level of protein expression correlates with the ability to evade phagocytosis. These results implicate macrophages in the immunosurveillance of hematopoietic cells and leukemias. The ability of macrophages to phagocytose tumor cells might be exploited therapeutically by blocking the CD47-SIRPalpha interaction.
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