The current review article describes the functional relationship between tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) as key cellular contributors to cancer malignancy on the one hand and macrophage-colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF or CSF-1) as an important molecular contributor on the other. We recapitulate the available data on expression of M-CSF and the M-CSF receptor (M-CSFR) in human tumor tissue as constituents of a stromal macrophage signature and on the limits of the predictive and prognostic value of plasma M-CSF levels. After providing an update on current insights into the nature of TAM heterogeneity at the level of M1/M2 phenotype and TAM subsets, we give an overview of experimental evidence, based on genetic, antibody-mediated, and pharmacological disruption of M-CSF/M-CSFR signaling, for the extent to which M-CSFR signaling can not only determine the TAM quantity, but can also contribute to shaping the phenotype and heterogeneity of TAM and other related tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells (TIM). Finally, we review the accumulating information on the - sometimes conflicting - effects blocking M-CSFR signaling may have on various aspects of cancer progression such as tumor growth, invasion, angiogenesis, metastasis, and resistance to therapy and we thereby discuss in how far these different effects actually reflect a contribution of TAM.
Keywords: CSF-1; CSF-1R; M-CSF; M-CSFR; M1; M2; cancer progression; tumor-associated macrophages.