Cancer Cells and M2 Macrophages: Cooperative Invasive Ecosystem Engineers

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3 Scopus citations


Many aspects of cancer can be explained utilizing well-defined ecological principles. Applying these principles to cancer, cancer cells are an invasive species to a healthy organ ecosystem. In their capacity as ecosystem engineers, cancer cells release cytokines that recruit monocytes to the tumor and polarize them to M2-like protumor macrophages. Macrophages, recruited by the cancer cells, act as a secondary invasive species. The ecosystem engineering functions of M2-macrophages in turn support and stimulate cancer cell survival and proliferation. The cooperative ecosystem engineering of both the primary invasive species of the cancer cell and the secondary invasive species of the M2-macrophage thus creates a vicious cycle of tumor promotion. Targeting a specific aspect of this tumor-promoting ecosystem engineering, such as blocking efferocytosis by M2-like macrophages, may improve the response to standard-of-care anticancer therapies. This strategy has the potential to redirect cooperative protumor ecosystem engineering toward an antitumor ecosystem engineering strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Control
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • cancer ecology
  • ecosystem engineer
  • efferocytosis
  • invasive species
  • macrophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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