Targeting macrophages for enhancing CD47 blockade-elicited lymphoma clearance and overcoming tumor-induced immunosuppression

Blood. 2022 Jun 2;139(22):3290-3302. doi: 10.1182/blood.2021013901.


Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are often the most abundant immune cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME). Strategies targeting TAMs to enable tumor cell killing through cellular phagocytosis have emerged as promising cancer immunotherapy. Although several phagocytosis checkpoints have been identified, the desired efficacy has not yet been achieved by blocking such checkpoints in preclinical models or clinical trials. Here, we showed that late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was resistant to therapy targeting phagocytosis checkpoint CD47 due to the compromised capacity of TAMs to phagocytose lymphoma cells. Via a high-throughput screening of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved anticancer small molecule compounds, we identified paclitaxel as a potentiator that promoted the clearance of lymphoma by directly evoking phagocytic capability of macrophages, independently of paclitaxel's chemotherapeutic cytotoxicity toward NHL cells. A combination with paclitaxel dramatically enhanced the anticancer efficacy of CD47-targeted therapy toward late-stage NHL. Analysis of TME by single-cell RNA sequencing identified paclitaxel-induced TAM populations with an upregulation of genes for tyrosine kinase signaling. The activation of Src family tyrosine kinases signaling in macrophages by paclitaxel promoted phagocytosis against NHL cells. In addition, we identified a role of paclitaxel in modifying the TME by preventing the accumulation of a TAM subpopulation that was only present in late-stage lymphoma resistant to CD47-targeted therapy. Our findings identify a novel and effective strategy for NHL treatment by remodeling TME to enable the tumoricidal roles of TAMs. Furthermore, we characterize TAM subgroups that determine the efficiency of lymphoma phagocytosis in the TME and can be potential therapeutic targets to unleash the antitumor activities of macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • CD47 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lymphoma* / drug therapy
  • Macrophages
  • Neoplasms*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Phagocytosis
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • CD47 Antigen
  • CD47 protein, human
  • Paclitaxel