Marrow-derived macrophages are highly phagocytic, but whether they can also traffic into solid tumors and engulf cancer cells is questionable, given the well-known limitations of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Here, SIRPα on macrophages from mouse and human marrow was inhibited to block recognition of its ligand, the “marker of self” CD47 on all other cells. These macrophages were then systemically injected into mice with fluorescent human tumors that had been antibody targeted. Within days, the tumors regressed, and single-cell fluorescence analyses showed that the more the macrophages engulfed, the more they accumulated within regressing tumors. Human-marrow-derived macrophages engorged on the human tumors, while TAMs were minimally phagocytic, even toward CD47-knockdown tumors. Past studies had opsonized tumors in situ with antibody and/or relied on mouse TAMs but had not injected SIRPα-inhibited cells; also, unlike past injections of anti-CD47, blood parameters remained normal and safe. Consistent with tumor-selective engorge-and-accumulate processes in vivo, phagocytosis in vitro inhibited macrophage migration through micropores that mimic features of dense 3D tissue. Accumulation of SIRPα-inhibited macrophages in tumors favored tumor regression for 1–2 weeks, but donor macrophages quickly differentiated toward non-phagocytic, high-SIRPα TAMs. Analyses of macrophages on soft (like marrow) or stiff (like solid tumors) collagenous gels demonstrated a stiffness-driven, retinoic-acid-modulated upregulation of SIRPα and the mechanosensitive nuclear marker lamin-A. Mechanosensitive differentiation was similarly evident in vivo and likely limited the anti-tumor effects, as confirmed by re-initiation of tumor regression by fresh injections of SIRPα-inhibited macrophages. Macrophage motility, phagocytosis, and differentiation in vivo are thus coupled.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)