Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are a key component of the tumor microenvironment and orchestrate various aspects of cancer. Diversity and plasticity are hallmarks of cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage. In response to distinct signals macrophages undergo M1 (classical) or M2 (alternative) activation, which represent extremes of a continuum in a spectrum of activation states. Metabolic adaptation is a key component of macrophage plasticity and polarization, instrumental to their function in homeostasis, immunity and inflammation. Generally, TAMs acquire an M2-like phenotype that plays important roles in many aspects of tumor growth and progression. There is now evidence that also neutrophils can be driven towards distinct phenotypes in response to microenvironmental signals. The identification of mechanisms and molecules associated with macrophage and neutrophil plasticity and polarized activation provides a basis for new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.
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