The delicate balance of macrophages in colorectal cancer; their role in tumour development and therapeutic potential

R. Braster, M. Bögels, R. H.J. Beelen, M. van Egmond

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Most tumours are heavily infiltrated by immune cells. This has been correlated with either a good or a bad patient prognosis, depending on the (sub) type of immune cells. Macrophages represent one of the most prominent leukocyte populations in the majority of tumours. Functions of macrophages range from cytotoxicity, to stimulation of tumour growth by secretion of cytokines, growth and angiogenic factors, or suppressing immune responses. In most tumours macrophages are described as cells with immune suppressing, and wound healing properties, which aids tumour development. Yet, increasing evidence shows that macrophages are potent inhibitors of tumour growth in colorectal cancer. Macrophages in this respect show high plasticity. The presence of high macrophage numbers in the tumour may therefore become advantageous, if cells can be reprogrammed from tumour promoting macrophages into potent effector cells. Enhancing cytotoxic properties of macrophages by microbial products, pro-inflammatory cytokines or monoclonal antibody therapy are promising possibilities, and are currently tested in clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Immune therapy
  • Macrophage activation
  • Macrophages
  • Monoclonal antibodies

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