Successful immunotherapy of cancer is becoming a reality aided by the realization that macrophages play an important role in the growth or regression of tumors. Specifically, M2/repair-type macrophages predominate in human cancers and produce growth-promoting molecules that actively stimulate tumor growth in much the same way they help wounds heal. However, modulating M2/repair-type macrophages to M1/kill-type can slow or stop cancer growth. The effects involve direct activity of M1 kill-type as well as the ability of M1-type macrophages to stimulate Th1-type cytotoxic T cells and other effector cells. Macrophage responses can also predict cancer susceptibility; individuals with a high M1/kill to M2/repair ratio are less prone. That macrophages/innate immunity can be modulated to play a central role in directly or indirectly combating cancer is a breakthrough that seems likely to finally make successful immunotherapy of cancer a reality.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.