The macrophage is a key cell in the pro-and anti-inflammatory response including that of the inflammatory microenvironment of malignant tumors. Much current drug development in chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer therefore focuses on the macrophage as a target for immunotherapy. However, this strategy is complicated by the pleiotropic phenotype of the macrophage that is highly responsive to its microenvironment. The plasticity leads to numerous types of macrophages with rather different and, to some extent, opposing functionalities, as evident by the existence of macrophages with either stimulating or down-regulating effect on inflammation and tumor growth. The phenotypes are characterized by different surface markers and the present review describes recent progress in drug-targeting of the surface marker CD163 expressed in a subpopulation of macrophages. CD163 is an abundant endocytic receptor for multiple ligands, quantitatively important being the haptoglobin-hemoglobin complex. The microenvironment of inflammation and tumorigenesis is particular rich in CD163+ macrophages. The use of antibodies for directing anti-inflammatory (e.g. glucocorticoids) or tumoricidal (e.g. doxorubicin) drugs to CD163+ macrophages in animal models of inflammation and cancer has demonstrated a high efficacy of the conjugate drugs. This macrophage-targeting approach has a low toxicity profile that may highly improve the therapeutic window of many current drugs and drug candidates.
- Antibody-drug conjugate