The Endless Saga of Monocyte Diversity

Stefania Canè, Stefano Ugel, Rosalinda Trovato, Ilaria Marigo, Francesco De Sanctis, Silvia Sartoris, Vincenzo Bronte

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cancer immunotherapy relies on either restoring or activating the function of adaptive immune cells, mainly CD8+ T lymphocytes. Despite impressive clinical success, cancer immunotherapy remains ineffective in many patients due to the establishment of tumor resistance, largely dependent on the nature of tumor microenvironment. There are several cellular and molecular mechanisms at play, and the goal is to identify those that are clinically significant. Among the hematopoietic-derived cells, monocytes are endowed with high plasticity, responsible for their pro- and anti-tumoral function. Indeed, monocytes are involved in several cancer-associated processes such as immune-tolerance, metastatic spread, neoangiogenesis, and chemotherapy resistance; on the other hand, by presenting cancer-associated antigens, they can also promote and sustain anti-tumoral T cell response. Recently, by high throughput technologies, new findings have revealed previously underappreciated, profound transcriptional, epigenetic, and metabolic differences among monocyte subsets, which complement and expand our knowledge on the monocyte ontogeny, recruitment during steady state, and emergency hematopoiesis, as seen in cancer. The subdivision into discrete monocytes subsets, both in mice and humans, appears an oversimplification, whereas continuum subsets development is best for depicting the real condition. In this review, we examine the evidences sustaining the existence of a monocyte heterogeneity along with functional activities, at the primary tumor and at the metastatic niche. In particular, we describe how tumor-derived soluble factors and cell-cell contact reprogram monocyte function. Finally, we point out the role of monocytes in preparing and shaping the metastatic niche and describe relevant targetable molecules altering monocyte activities. We think that exploiting monocyte complexity can help identifying key pathways important for the treatment of cancer and several conditions where these cells are involved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1786
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 6 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'The Endless Saga of Monocyte Diversity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this