Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) promote metastasis and inhibit T cells, but macrophages can be polarized to kill cancer cells. Macrophage polarization could thus be a strategy for controlling cancer. We show that macrophages from metastatic pleural effusions of breast cancer patients can be polarized to kill cancer cells with monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) and interferon (IFN) γ. MPLA + IFNγ injected intratumorally or intraperitoneally reduces primary tumor growth and metastasis in breast cancer mouse models, suppresses metastasis, and enhances chemotherapy response in an ovarian cancer model. Both macrophages and T cells are critical for the treatment’s anti-metastatic effects. MPLA + IFNγ stimulates type I IFN signaling, reprograms CD206 TAMs to inducible NO synthase (iNOS) macrophages, and activates cytotoxic T cells through macrophage-secreted interleukin-2 (IL-12) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). MPLA and IFNγ are used individually in clinical practice and together represent a previously unexplored approach for engaging a systemic anti-tumor immune response.
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