Ageing and its Role in Modulating Healthy and Tumour -Associated Macrophages




Ageing, Cancer, Macrophages, Tumour-associated macrophages, Endothelial cells, Immunosenescence


Western and third world countries alike are experiencing population ageing with people living longer. The World Health Organization website states that ‘between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22% reaching 2.1 billion’, and that ‘the number of persons aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million’. However, the elderly (i.e., those aged over 65 years) are 11 times more likely to develop cancer than younger people; this is illustrated by GLOBOCAN 2020 data showing that greater than 50% of people who had cancer were 65 or older in 2018. This age-related cancer emergence may in part be due to increasing dysregulation of the immune system or “immunosenescence”. Macrophages are pivotal immune cells in maintaining homeostasis and in regulating inflammatory responses during immunological insults, such as cancer, where they can perform anti-tumourigenic functions. Yet, tumour-associated macrophages are well known for their ability to promote tumour growth, with numbers often correlating to cancer progression and poorer outcomes. Macrophages contribute to this by secreting growth and angiogenic factors, and they closely interact with endothelial cells and cancer cells to help shape the tumour microenvironment. During ageing, macrophage response to environmental stimuli becomes dysregulated including impaired anti-tumour functions. Furthermore, increased number of macrophages and precursor cells are observed in lymphoid organs that can supply to tumours with ageing. Such age-related changes, including those to endothelial cells, may promote cancer development and lead to poorer cancer outcomes in elderly people. In this review, we discuss recent findings concerning how macrophages are modulated during healthy ageing and in cancer, with a focus on macrophage and endothelial cell interactions.


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