The role of macrophages in non-small cell lung cancer and advancements in 3D co-cultures

Katarína Balážová, Hans Clevers, Antonella F M Dost

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Lung cancer (LC) is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Traditional therapeutic approaches such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy have provided only a marginal improvement in the treatment of lung carcinomas. Inhibitors targeting specific genetic aberrations present in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common subtype (85%), have improved the prognostic outlook, but due to the complexity of the LC mutational spectrum, only a fraction of patients benefit from these targeted molecular therapies. More recently, the realization that the immune infiltrate surrounding solid tumors can foster tumor-promoting inflammation has led to the development and implementation of anticancer immunotherapies in the clinic. In NSCLC, one of the most abundant leukocyte infiltrates is macrophages. These highly plastic phagocytes, which are part of the cellular repertoire of the innate immunity, can have a pivotal role in early NSCLC establishment, malignant progression, and tumor invasion. Emerging macrophage-targeting therapies have been focused on the re-differentiation of the macrophages toward an antitumorigenic phenotype, depletion of tumor-promoting macrophage subtypes, or combination therapies combining traditional cytotoxic treatments with immunotherapeutic agents. The most extensively used models employed for the exploration of NSCLC biology and therapy have been 2D cell lines and murine models. However, studying cancer immunology requires appropriately complex models. 3D platforms, including organoid models, are quickly advancing powerful tools to study immune cell-epithelial cell interactions within the tumor microenvironment. Co-cultures of immune cells along with NSCLC organoids allow for an in vitro observation of the tumor microenvironment dynamics closely resembling in vivo settings. Ultimately, the implementation of 3D organoid technology into tumor microenvironment-modeling platforms might facilitate the exploration of macrophage-targeted therapies in NSCLC immunotherapeutic research, thus establishing a new frontier in NSCLC treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2023


  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung/pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms/pathology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Macrophages
  • Antineoplastic Agents/pharmacology
  • Tumor Microenvironment


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