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J Exp Med. 2008 Jun 9;205(6):1261-8. doi: 10.1084/jem.20080108. Epub 2008 May 19.

"Re-educating" tumor-associated macrophages by targeting NF-kappaB.

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Centre for Cancer and Inflammation, Institute of Cancer, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London EC1M 6BQ, UK.


The nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) signaling pathway is important in cancer-related inflammation and malignant progression. Here, we describe a new role for NF-kappaB in cancer in maintaining the immunosuppressive phenotype of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). We show that macrophages are polarized via interleukin (IL)-1R and MyD88 to an immunosuppressive "alternative" phenotype that requires IkappaB kinase beta-mediated NF-kappaB activation. When NF-kappaB signaling is inhibited specifically in TAMs, they become cytotoxic to tumor cells and switch to a "classically" activated phenotype; IL-12(high), major histocompatibility complex II(high), but IL-10(low) and arginase-1(low). Targeting NF-kappaB signaling in TAMs also promotes regression of advanced tumors in vivo by induction of macrophage tumoricidal activity and activation of antitumor activity through IL-12-dependent NK cell recruitment. We provide a rationale for manipulating the phenotype of the abundant macrophage population already located within the tumor microenvironment; the potential to "re-educate" the tumor-promoting macrophage population may prove an effective and novel therapeutic approach for cancer that complements existing therapies.

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