Functional crosstalk between T cells and monocytes in cancer and atherosclerosis

J Leukoc Biol. 2020 Jul;108(1):297-308. doi: 10.1002/JLB.1MIR0420-076R. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Monocytes and monocyte-derived cells, including Mϕs and dendritic cells, exhibit a diverse array of phenotypic states that are dictated by their surrounding microenvironment. These cells direct T cell activation and function via cues that range from being immunosuppressive to immunostimulatory. Solid tumors and atherosclerotic plaques represent two pathological niches with distinct immune microenvironments. While monocytes and their progeny possess a phenotypic spectrum found within both disease contexts, most within tumors are pro-tumoral and support evasion of host immune responses by tumor cells. In contrast, monocyte-derived cells within atherosclerotic plaques are usually pro-atherogenic, pro-inflammatory, and predominantly directed against self-antigens. Consequently, cancer immunotherapies strive to enhance the immune response against tumor antigens, whereas atherosclerosis treatments seek to dampen the immune response against lipid antigens. Insights into monocyte-T cell interactions within these niches could thus inform therapeutic strategies for two immunologically distinct diseases. Here, we review monocyte diversity, interactions between monocytes and T cells within tumor and plaque microenvironments, how certain therapies have leveraged these interactions, and novel strategies to assay such associations.

Keywords: T cells; atherosclerosis; cancer; monocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Cell Communication
  • Humans
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*