Oncometabolites lactate and succinate drive pro-angiogenic macrophage response in tumors

Marjolein M. G. Kes, Jan van den Bossche, Arjan W. Griffioen*, Elisabeth J. M. Huijbers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Macrophages are innate phagocytic leukocytes that are highly present in solid tumors, where they are referred to as tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). In solid tumors, the microenvironment is often immunosuppressive and hypoxic regions are prevalent. These hypoxic conditions impose tumor cells to reprogram their metabolism, shifting from oxidative phosphorylation to anaerobic glycolysis. This so-called glycolytic switch enables hypoxic tumor cells to survive, proliferate, and eventually to outcompete untransformed cells. The hypoxia-induced change in tumor cell metabolism leads to the production of oncometabolites, among which are the glycolytic end-metabolite lactate and the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate succinate. TAMs can react to these oncometabolites, resulting in an altered maturation and the adoption of pro-angiogenic features. These angiogenesis-promoting TAMs have been reported to cooperate with tumor cells in the formation of new vessels, and even have been considered an important cause of resistance against anti-angiogenic therapies. For a long time, the mechanisms by which lactate and succinate activated pro-angiogenic TAMs were not understood. Researchers now start to unravel and understand some of the underlying mechanisms. Here, the importance of microenvironmental cues in inducing different macrophage activation states is discussed, as well as the role of hypoxia in the recruitment and activation of pro-angiogenic macrophages. In addition, the latest findings on the oncometabolites lactate and succinate in the activation of angiogenesis supporting macrophages are reviewed. Finally, various oncometabolite-targeting therapeutic strategies are proposed that could improve the response to anti-angiogenic therapies. Significance statement: Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are known promotors of tumor neovascularization, and significantly contribute to the emergence of resistance to anti-angiogenic therapies. Recent evidence suggests that the angiogenesis promoting phenotype of TAMs can be activated by hypoxic tumor cell-derived oncometabolites, including lactate and succinate. Here, the latest findings into the lactate- and succinate-mediated mechanistic activation of pro-angiogenic TAMs are reviewed, and therapeutic strategies that interfere with this mechanism and may delay or even prevent acquired resistance to anti-angiogenic agents are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number188427
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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