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EMERGING RESEARCH FRONTS - 2008

Alberto Mantovani talks with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about this month's Emerging Research Front in the field of Immunology.
Mantovani Article: Macrophage polarization: tumor-associated macrophages as a paradigm for polarized M2 mononuclear phagocytes
Authors: Mantovani, A;Sozzani, S;Locati, M;Allavena, P;Sica, A
Journal: TRENDS IMMUNOL, 23 (11): 549-555 NOV 2002
Addresses: Ist Ric Farmacol Mario Negri, Via Eritrea 62, I-20157 Milan, Italy.
Ist Ric Farmacol Mario Negri, I-20157 Milan, Italy.
Univ Milan, Inst Gen Pathol, Ctr IDET, I-20133 Milan, Italy.
Univ Brescia, Dept Biotechnol, Sect Gen Pathol & Immunol, I-25123 Brescia, Italy.

 Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

This paper is at the intersection of two fields of research which have become popular. On the one hand, it summarizes current understanding of the diversity of macrophage activation in terms of polarization of cells with different functional properties. It crystallizes the idea of macrophage polarization into M1 and M2 cells mirroring a nomenclature used for Th1 and Th2 cells.

On the other hand, the paper reviews tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), cells which have become popular in the general context of the relationship between inflammation and cancer. The view of TAM as M2 cells proposed herein has been borne out by many subsequent studies.

  Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

This review is a synthesis of knowledge as well as a proposal of different views (macrophage polarization; M1 and M2; TAM as M2 cells).

  Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman’s terms?

Inflammation and cancer have long been known to be linked. This field has witnessed a renaissance. Understanding how TAM helps tumors is vital to developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

  How did you become involved in this research and were any particular problems encountered along the way?

I became involved in this research in the late 1970s when the popular view was that macrophages kill tumor cells. We found that macrophages from malignant tumors promoted cancer in vitro and in vivo. Based on this finding and view, we then searched for tumor-derived chemoattractants (now called chemokines) which recruit macrophages in tumors.

  Where do you see your research leading in the future?

Hopefully, the work on inflammation and cancer will lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Translation to the bedside is in its infancy.

Alberto Mantovani, MD
Professor
University of Milan
Scientific Director
Istituto Clinico Humanitas
Milan, Italy



2008 : April 2008 : Alberto Mantovani