Glioblastoma-associated microglia and macrophages: targets for therapies to improve prognosis

Brain. 2017 Jun 1;140(6):1548-1560. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww355.


Glioblastoma is the most common and most malignant primary adult human brain tumour. Diagnosis of glioblastoma carries a dismal prognosis. Treatment resistance and tumour recurrence are the result of both cancer cell proliferation and their interaction with the tumour microenvironment. A large proportion of the tumour microenvironment consists of an inflammatory infiltrate predominated by microglia and macrophages, which are thought to be subverted by glioblastoma cells for tumour growth. Thus, glioblastoma-associated microglia and macrophages are logical therapeutic targets. Their emerging roles in glioblastoma progression are reflected in the burgeoning research into therapeutics directed at their modification or elimination. Here, we review the biology of glioblastoma-associated microglia and macrophages, and model systems used to study these cells in vitro and in vivo. We discuss translation of results using these model systems and review recent advances in immunotherapies targeting microglia and macrophages in glioblastoma. Significant challenges remain but medications that affect glioblastoma-associated microglia and macrophages hold considerable promise to improve the prognosis for patients with this disease.

Keywords: glioblastoma; glioma; immunotherapy; macrophages; microglia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Glioblastoma / immunology*
  • Glioblastoma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Microglia / immunology*