The Role of Tumor Associated Macrophages (TAMs) in Cancer Progression, Chemoresistance, Angiogenesis and Metastasis - Current Status

Curr Med Chem. 2021;28(39):8203-8236. doi: 10.2174/0929867328666210720143721.


Tumor associated macrophages (TAMs), located in the tumor microenvironment (TME), play a significant role in cancer cell survival and progression. TAMs have been involved in producing immuno-suppressive TME in the tumor by generating inflammatory mediators, growth factors, cytokines, chemokines, etc. TAMs can influence the angiogenesis, metastatic behavior of tumor cells (TCs) and cause multidrug resistance. TAMs within the TME can enhance cancer cell metastasis and are stromal and perivascular. The angiogenesis is promoted at the hypoxia, and the avascular zones of TME. Differentiation states of TAMs are considered 'plastic' as they exhibit temporal expression of one or several phenotypes depending on local cues. Emerging cancer research depicted the epigenetic regulation of macrophage polarization (both M1s, M2s) and their potential implications to develop pharmacologic modulators and microRNAs to act as molecular switches and even to serve as targeted therapies to inhibit tumor growth. In the present article, the role of TAMs in tumor progression, angiogenesis and metastasis was discussed. In addition, key signaling cascades regulated by TAMs, which have a role in chemoresistance, were also discussed. Currently, novel pleiotropic properties of various anticancer phytomedicines are gaining importance as they assist in overcoming TAMs-induced chemoresistance. Moreover, these phytomedicines are being tested as 'adjunct therapeutics' along with chemotherapeutic agents, anti-angiogenic molecules, anti-metastatic compounds, and other immune-checkpoint blockers against tumor metastasis/angiogenesis. Hence, a brief note on natural products targeting TAMs was provided. In summary, this review would benefit pharmacologists and medical professionals to develop therapies to target TAMs using multi-OMICs approaches, including genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics.

Keywords: M1 and M2; Tumor associated macrophages; chemosensitization; macrophages; natural products.; tumor angiogenesis; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Macrophages
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Tumor-Associated Macrophages*