Different coloured macrophages

A timeline of tumour-associated macrophage biology

Luca Cassetta & Jeffrey W. Pollard      


  • birthday balloons that look like cancer cells making the number 20

    October 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of Nature Reviews Cancer. This Collection includes cutting-edge articles, including our anniversary issue contents, and thought-provoking commentaries and viewpoints. We also delve into our archives as a reminder of where the journal started and all that has been achieved in cancer research since the journal’s launch.

  • two people representing an early-career researcher and their mentor

    Nature Reviews Cancer is committed to facilitating training in peer review and to ensuring that everyone involved in our peer-review process is recognised. We have therefore joined an initiative to allow and encourage established referees to involve one early-career researcher in our peer-review process.

  • "crab" symbol formed from individual cancer cells

    These Milestones celebrate two decades of breakthroughs in basic, translational and clinical research which have revolutionized our understanding and management of cancer.

  • triangle with diet, cells and the human body

    This series of articles explores recent advances in our understanding of tumour metabolism and growth in the context of systemic regulation, diet and metabolic disease.


    • Overactive nucleotide synthesis is a hallmark of cancers and inhibitors of nucleotide synthesis pathways have shown promise in some cancer types. In this Review, Mullen and Singh give an overview of the role of aberrant nucleotide synthesis in supporting cancer cell growth, immune evasion, metastasis and resistance to cancer therapies, with a focus on identifying opportunities for the use of combination therapies to target these pathways more effectively.

      • Nicholas J. Mullen
      • Pankaj K. Singh
      Review Article
    • Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma is a rare cancer type and, as such, research into this disease comes with many challenges. In this Perspective, Sanford Simon tells of his personal journey and experiences in the fight against this rare cancer type.

      • Sanford M. Simon
    • In this Perspective, Tsoumakidou explores the emerging role of cancer-associated fibroblasts as positive regulators of the adaptive immune system in cancer.

      • Maria Tsoumakidou
    • Clinical correlative data and a plethora of preclinical studies of cancers have shown that both tumour-associated and metastasis-associated macrophages play an important role in promoting cancer. In this Perspective article, Cassetta and Pollard chronologically explore the evolution of our understanding of tumour-associated macrophage biology and enabling technologies.

      • Luca Cassetta
      • Jeffrey W. Pollard
    • Myeloid cells in the tumour microenvironment strongly influence tumour progression, and targeting these cells has been a key clinical focus. In this Review, Barry et al. discuss preclinical and clinical data on myeloid-targeting therapies, with a focus on how understanding context-specific effects might aid the design of successful clinical trials for these drugs.

      • Simon T. Barry
      • Dmitry I. Gabrilovich
      • Jennifer P. Morton
      Review Article
  • In this study, Bhardwaj et al. highlight the mechanistic link between elevated body mass index and breast epithelial cell DNA damage in individuals carrying BRCA mutations.

    • Gabrielle Brewer
    Research Highlight
  • In this article, Efrat Shema describes EPINUC, a liquid biopsy method based on epigenetic profiling of nucleosomes from cell-free DNA in the plasma. EPINUC, combined with protein biomarker measurements, enables the accurate differentiation of samples from healthy volunteers and patients.

    • Efrat Shema
    Tools of the Trade
  • In this Tools of the Trade article, Francisco Barriga describes the development and use of MACHETE, a flexible deletion engineering strategy, which enables the functional characterization of the large genomic deletions that occur in cancer.

    • Francisco M. Barriga
    Tools of the Trade
  • In this study, the authors investigate the mechanistic basis of alternative telomere lengthening, a process that certain cancer cells use to overcome telomere shortening.

    • Michael Attwaters
    Research Highlight
  • Altea-Manzano et al. find that factors secreted by primary breast tumours or high-fat diet feeding enriches the fatty acid palmitate in distant organs, which primes pre-metastatic niches enabling metastatic growth.

    • Daniela Senft
    Research Highlight
A triangle showing a human body in one corner, foods in one corner and cancer cells in the third corner, all connected by arrows as a cycle

Diet and systemic metabolism

This series of articles explores how changes in diet and systemic metabolism can influence tumour development and progression, how this is affected by the presence of metabolic disease and how we can use this knowledge to improve anticancer therapy.


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