Targeting the CD47-SIRPα Innate Immune Checkpoint to Potentiate Antibody Therapy in Cancer by Neutrophils

Leonie M. Behrens*, Timo K. van den Berg, Marjolein van Egmond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


In the past 25 years, a considerable number of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAb) against a variety of tumor-associated antigens (TAA) have become available for the targeted treatment of hematologic and solid cancers. Such antibodies opsonize cancer cells and can trigger cytotoxic responses mediated by Fc-receptor expressing immune cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME). Although frequently ignored, neutrophils, which are abundantly present in the circulation and many cancers, have demonstrated to constitute bona fide effector cells for antibody-mediated tumor elimination in vivo. It has now also been established that neutrophils exert a unique mechanism of cytotoxicity towards antibody-opsonized tumor cells, known as trogoptosis, which involves Fc-receptor (FcR)-mediated trogocytosis of cancer cell plasma membrane leading to a lytic/necrotic type of cell death. However, neutrophils prominently express the myeloid inhibitory receptor SIRPα, which upon interaction with the ‘don’t eat me’ signal CD47 on cancer cells, limits cytotoxicity, forming a mechanism of resistance towards anti-cancer antibody therapeutics. In fact, tumor cells often overexpress CD47, thereby even more strongly restricting neutrophil-mediated tumor killing. Blocking the CD47-SIRPα interaction may therefore potentiate neutrophil-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) towards cancer cells, and various inhibitors of the CD47-SIRPα axis are now in clinical studies. Here, we review the role of neutrophils in antibody therapy in cancer and their regulation by the CD47-SIRPα innate immune checkpoint. Moreover, initial results of CD47-SIRPα blockade in clinical trials are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3366
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

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