Revealing and harnessing tumour-associated microglia/macrophage heterogeneity in glioblastoma

Yolanda Pires-Afonso, Simone P. Niclou, Alessandro Michelucci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Cancer heterogeneity and progression are subject to complex interactions between neoplastic cells and their microenvironment, including the immune system. Although glioblastomas (GBMs) are classified as ‘cold tumours’ with very little lymphocyte infiltration, they can contain up to 30–40% of tumour-associated macrophages, reported to contribute to a supportive microenvironment that facilitates tumour proliferation, survival and migration. In GBM, tumour-associated macrophages comprise either resident parenchymal microglia, perivascular macrophages or peripheral monocyte-derived cells. They are recruited by GBMs and in turn release growth factors and cytokines that affect the tumour. Notably, tumour-associated microglia/macrophages (TAMs) acquire different expression programs, which shape the tumour microenvironment and contribute to GBM molecular subtyping. Further, emerging evidence highlights that TAM programs may adapt to specific tumour features and landscapes. Here, we review key evidence describing TAM transcriptional and functional heterogeneity in GBM. We propose that unravelling the intricate complexity and diversity of the myeloid compartment as well as understanding how different TAM subsets may affect tumour progression will possibly pave the way to new immune therapeutic avenues for GBM patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number689
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Cellular heterogeneity
  • Glioblastoma
  • Immunotherapy
  • Precision medicine
  • Tumour-associated microglia/macrophages


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