Allavena Group

Cellular Immunology Lab

Contact Information

  • Address
    Building C, Humanitas University Campus, Pieve Emanuele (MI), Italy
  • Telephone
    +39 02 8224 5112
  • Fax
    +39 02 8224 5101
  • E-mail

Our research group studies tumor-associated macrophages, cells of the innate immunity able to promote tumor progression, and investigates how these cells could be targeted or re-educated, paving the way to innovative therapeutic approaches to cancer.


The challenge

Macrophages are, to a varying extent, crucial components of the tumor microenvironment of virtually all types of cancer, and contribute to tumor progression at different levels: by sustaining genetic instability and nurturing cancer stem cells, by facilitating the metastatic process and by hindering adaptive immunity. Many strategies are currently under investigation to alter tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) recruitment or to rewire them towards antitumor behavior. Such TAM-focused therapeutic strategies have the potential to complement and synergize with both chemotherapy and immunotherapy, while, at the same time, TAM-dependent biomarkers could help us discriminate different patient/disease profiles and choose the most effective treatments.

Main research areas

Understanding tumor-associated macrophages

We study tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs): novel macrophage-derived products have been identified and are now investigated for their functional role on tumor cells. Examples include molecules inducing cancer cell motility and metastatic ability, as well as regulators of cancer cell stemness. Another research project concerns the role of macrophages at sites where tumor cells invade peripheral nerves and of the neuro-immune axis in the regulation of tumor growth.

Targeting tumor-associated macrophages

As macrophages are involved in several key steps of cancer progression, we developed strategies to target TAMs in pre-clinical therapeutic settings. These included, in the past, the direct depletion of TAMs with a registered chemotherapeutic agent: trabectedin, demonstrated to be selectively cytotoxic for monocytes-macrophages. More recently we are interested in novel nanotechnology approaches to target TAMs with functionalized, drug-loaded Nanoparticles.

Tumor biology and prognostic biomarkers

A main research line is the identification of immune-associated variables with clinical relevance in human tumors, such as pancreatic and colorectal cancers, liver metastases and mesothelioma. We analyze relevant bio-specimens, including tumor samples, blood and other fluids, to quantify immune cells and their products, including metabolites. The final goal is to identify markers associated with distinct clinical profiles and validate their usefulness for the early diagnosis and precision prognosis of tumors and their response to therapies.

    Selected Publications

  • Allavena Selected Publications

    Erreni M, D'Autilia F, Avigni R, Bolli E, Arnouk SM, Movahedi K, Debie P, Anselmo A, Parente R, Vincke C, van Leeuwen FWB, Allavena P, Garlanda C, Mantovani A, Doni ...

Group Members