Activation of tumor-promoting type 2 macrophages by EGFR-targeting antibody cetuximab

Jan Pander, Moniek Heusinkveld, Tahar Van Der Straaten, Ekaterina S. Jordanova, Reneé Baak-Pablo, Hans Gelderblom, Hans Morreau, Sjoerd H. Van Der Burg, Henk Jan Guchelaar, Thorbald Van Hall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: In a recent randomized phase III clinical trial in metastatic colorectal cancer patients, the addition of the anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody (mAb) cetuximab to bevacizumab and chemotherapy resulted in decreased progression-free survival, in particular for patients with the high-affinity FcγRIIIA. Experimental Design: The presence of natural killer (NK) cells and type 2 (M2) macrophages in colorectal cancer was determined by immunohistochemistry, using antibodies to lineage-specific markers NKp46 and CD68 with CD163, respectively. Influence of tumor-bound cetuximab on M2 macrophages was carried out in vitro with EGFR-expressing tumor cells and short-term differentiated monocytes from blood donors, who were typed for the FcγRIIIA polymorphism (CD16). Results: Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity by NK cells is generally proposed as one of the antitumor mechanisms of mAbs. We found that CD163-positive M2 macrophages are much more abundant in colorectal carcinomas. In vitro analysis of M2 macrophages revealed high levels of Fc-gamma receptors (FcγR) and PD-L1 and production of IL-10 and VEGF but not IL-12. These anti-inflammatory and tumor-promoting mediators were released upon coculture with EGFR-positive tumor cells loaded with low concentrations of cetuximab. Macrophage activation depended on EGFR expression on the tumor cells, FcγRs, target specificity of the mAb and mobility of antibody complexes. Cetuximab-induced macrophage responses were more pronounced for FCGR3A 158-Val (high-affinity) carriers. Conclusion: These results suggest that tumor-promoting M2 macrophages are activated by the therapeutic mAb cetuximab in the local tumor microenvironment and argue that this immune mechanism should be taken into account for the application of therapeutic antibodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5668-5673
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011

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