Inflammatory cells are major players in the onset of cancer. The degree of inflammation and type of inflammatory cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME) are responsible for tilting the balance between tumor progression and regression. Cancer-related inflammation has also been shown to influence the efficacy of conventional therapy. Mononuclear phagocytes (MPs) represent a major component of the inflammatory circuit that promotes tumor progression. Despite their potential to activate immunosurveillance and exert anti-tumor responses, MPs are subverted by the tumor to support its growth, immune evasion, and spread. MP responses in the TME are dictated by a network of stimuli integrated through the cross-talk between activatory and inhibitory receptors. Alterations in receptor expression/signaling can create excessive inflammation and, when chronic, promote tumorigenesis. Research advances have led to the development of new therapeutic strategies aimed at receptor targeting to induce a tumor-infiltrating MP switch from a cancer-supportive toward an anti-tumor phenotype, demonstrating efficacy in different human cancers. This review provides an overview of the role of MP receptors in inflammation-mediated carcinogenesis and discusses the most recent updates regarding their targeting for immunotherapeutic purposes. We focus in particular on the TREM-1 receptor, a major amplifier of MP inflammatory responses, highlighting its relevance in the development and progression of several types of inflammation-associated malignancies and the promises of its inhibition for cancer immunotherapy.
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