The analysis of tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) has a high potential to predict cancer recurrence and response to immunotherapy. However, the heterogeneity of TAMs poses a challenge for quantitative and qualitative measurements. Here, we critically evaluated by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry two commonly used pan-macrophage markers (CD14 and CD68) as well as some suggested markers for tumour-promoting M2 macrophages (CD163, CD204, CD206 and CD209) in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Tumour, non-cancerous lung tissue and blood were investigated. For immunohistochemistry, CD68 was confirmed to be a useful pan-macrophage marker although careful selection of antibody was found to be critical. The widely used anti-CD68 antibody clone KP-1 stains both macrophages and neutrophils, which is problematic for TAM quantification because lung tumours contain many neutrophils. For TAM counting in tumour sections, we recommend combined labelling of CD68 with a cell membrane marker such as CD14, CD163 or CD206. In flow cytometry, the commonly used combination of CD14 and HLA-DR was found to not be optimal because some TAMs do not express CD14. Instead, combined staining of CD68 and HLA-DR is preferable to gate all TAMs. Concerning macrophage phenotypic markers, the scavenger receptor CD163 was found to be expressed by a substantial fraction (50%-86%) of TAMs with a large patient-to-patient variation. Approximately 50% of TAMs were positive for CD206. Surprisingly, there was no clear overlap between CD163 and CD206 positivity, and three distinct TAM sub-populations were identified in NSCLC tumours: CD163+ CD206+ , CD163+ CD206- and CD163- CD206- . This work should help develop macrophage-based prognostic tools for cancer.
Keywords: flow cytometry; human; immunohistochemistry; lung cancer; macrophages; tumour.
© 2020 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Scandinavian Foundation for Immunology.