Identification and manipulation of tumor associated macrophages in human cancers

J Transl Med. 2011 Dec 16;9:216. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-9-216.


Evading immune destruction and tumor promoting inflammation are important hallmarks in the development of cancer. Macrophages are present in most human tumors and are often associated with bad prognosis. Tumor associated macrophages come in many functional flavors ranging from what is known as classically activated macrophages (M1) associated with acute inflammation and T-cell immunity to immune suppressive macrophages (M2) associated with the promotion of tumor growth. The role of these functionally different myeloid cells is extensively studied in mice tumor models but dissimilarities in markers and receptors make the direct translation to human cancer difficult. This review focuses on recent reports discriminating the type of infiltrating macrophages in human tumors and the environmental cues present that steer their differentiation. Finally, immunotherapeutic approaches to interfere in this process are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology