Macrophage polarization at the crossroad between hiv-1 infection and cancer development

Massimo Alfano, Francesca Graziano, Luca Genovese, Guido Poli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mononuclear phagocytes play a fundamental role in the tissue homeostasis and innate defenses against viruses and other microbial pathogens. In addition, they are likely involved in several steps of cancer development. Circulating monocytes and tissue macrophages are target cells of viral infections, including human cytomegalovirus, human herpes virus 8, and the HIV, and alterations of their functional and phenotypic properties are likely involved in many tissue-degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis and cancer. Different tissue microenvironments as well as their pathological alterations can profoundly affect the polarization state of macrophages toward the extreme phenotypes conventionally termed M1 and M2. Thus, targeting disease-Associated macrophages is considered a potential approach particularly in the context of cancer-Associated tumor-Associated macrophages, supporting malignant cell growth and progression toward a metastatic phenotype. Of note is the fact that tumor-Associated macrophages isolated from established tumors display phenotypic and functional features similar to those of in vitro-derived M2-polarized cells. Concerning HIV-1 infection, viral eradication strategies in the context of combination antiretroviral therapy should also consider the possibility to deplete, at least transiently, certain mononuclear phagocytes subsets, although the possibility of distinguishing those that are either infected or pathogenically altered remains a goal of future research. In the present review, we will focus on the recent literature concerning the role of human macrophage polarization in viral infections and cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1152
Number of pages8
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • Human herpes virus 8
  • M1
  • M2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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