Cancer Microenvironment

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 195–201

Dynamic Education of Macrophages in Different Areas of Human Tumors

Review Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12307-012-0113-z

Cite this article as:
Wu, Y. & Zheng, L. Cancer Microenvironment (2012) 5: 195. doi:10.1007/s12307-012-0113-z


Human tumor tissues can often be anatomically classified into areas of cancer nest, invading edge, and peritumoral stroma, each with distinct compositions and functional properties. Macrophages (Mφ) constitute a major component of the leukocyte infiltrate in tumors. These cells are derived from circulating monocytes, and in response to environmental signals, they exhibit distinct phenotypes with diverse functions. Soluble factors derived from cancer cells can alter the normal developmental process of Mφ that is intended to trigger transient early activation of monocytes in the peritumoral region, which in turn induces formation of suppressive Mφ in cancer nests. The activated monocytes in the peritumoral region attenuated the T-cell response by expressing B7-H1, and were superior to the suppressive tumor Mφ in inducing Th17 expansion, and thus repurpose the inflammatory response away from anti-tumor immunity (the sword) and towards tissue remodeling and proangiogenic pathways (a plowshare). In contrast, the suppressive Mφ can induce the production of Tregs in cancer nest. Accordingly, angiogenesis was most active at the invading edge, which was situated close to the peritumoral stroma with activated Mφ and the density of these activated monocytes is selectively associated with vascular invasion and metastasis in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. These data reveal an intriguing mechanism in which human Th17 cells are generated and regulated by a fine-tuned collaborative action between different types of immune cells in distinct tumor microenvironments. These results give important new insights into the distinct role of macrophages in human tumor progression which would be helpful for the rational design of novel immune-based anticancer therapies.


Macrophages (Mφ)MicroenvironmentHepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)InflammationImmune-editing

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of the Ministry of Education, State Key Laboratory of BiocontrolSun Yat-sen (Zhongshan) UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China