Monocyte and Macrophage in Neuroblastoma: Blocking Their Pro-Tumoral Functions and Strengthening Their Crosstalk with Natural Killer Cells

Cells. 2023 Mar 13;12(6):885. doi: 10.3390/cells12060885.


Over the past decade, immunotherapy has represented an enormous step forward in the fight against cancer. Immunotherapeutic approaches have increasingly become a fundamental part of the combined therapies currently adopted in the treatment of patients with high-risk (HR) neuroblastoma (NB). An increasing number of studies focus on the understanding of the immune landscape in NB and, since this tumor expresses low or null levels of MHC class I, on the development of new strategies aimed at enhancing innate immunity, especially Natural Killer (NK) cells and macrophages. There is growing evidence that, within the NB tumor microenvironment (TME), tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), which mainly present an M2-like phenotype, have a crucial role in mediating NB development and immune evasion, and they have been correlated to poor clinical outcomes. Importantly, TAM can also impair the antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) mediated by NK cells upon the administration of anti-GD2 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), the current standard immunotherapy for HR-NB patients. This review deals with the main mechanisms regulating the crosstalk among NB cells and TAMs or other cellular components of the TME, which support tumor development and induce drug resistance. Furthermore, we will address the most recent strategies aimed at limiting the number of pro-tumoral macrophages within the TME, reprogramming the TAMs functional state, thus enhancing NK cell functions. We also prospectively discuss new or unexplored aspects of human macrophage heterogeneity.

Keywords: IL-18; macrophages; natural killer cells; neuroblastoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Monocytes
  • Neuroblastoma* / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antineoplastic Agents

Grants and funding

The authors don’t declare a specific grant for this article from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.