TAMeless traitors: macrophages in cancer progression and metastasis

Br J Cancer. 2017 Nov 21;117(11):1583-1591. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.356. Epub 2017 Oct 24.


Macrophages are conventionally classified into M1 and M2 subtypes according to their differentiation status and functional role in the immune system. However, accumulating evidence suggests that this binary classification system is insufficient to account for the remarkable plasticity of macrophages that gives rise to an immense diversity of subtypes. This diverse spectrum of macrophage subtypes play critical roles in various homeostatic and immune functions, but remain far from being fully characterised. In addition to their roles in normal physiological conditions, macrophages also play crucial roles in disease conditions such as cancer. In this review, we discuss the roles tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) play in regulating different steps of tumour progression and metastasis, and the opportunities to target them in the quest for cancer prevention and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology
  • Tumor Microenvironment