Monocytes in the Tumor Microenvironment

Annu Rev Pathol. 2021 Jan 24:16:93-122. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathmechdis-012418-013058.


Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment over the past decade. Nonetheless, prolonged survival is limited to relatively few patients. Cancers enforce a multifaceted immune-suppressive network whose nature is progressively shaped by systemic and local cues during tumor development. Monocytes bridge innate and adaptive immune responses and can affect the tumor microenvironment through various mechanisms that induce immune tolerance, angiogenesis, and increased dissemination of tumor cells. Yet monocytes can also give rise to antitumor effectors and activate antigen-presenting cells. This yin-yang activity relies on the plasticity of monocytes in response to environmental stimuli. In this review, we summarize current knowledge of the ontogeny, heterogeneity, and functions of monocytes and monocyte-derived cells in cancer, pinpointing the main pathways that are important for modeling the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

Keywords: cancer; immunotherapy; innate immunity; monocytes; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Escape / immunology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*