Tumour necrosis factor and cancer treatment: a historical review and perspectives

Rocz Akad Med Bialymst. 2001;46:5-18.


At the end of 19th century William Coley, a New York surgeon, was the first to describe necrosis of the tumour induced by bacterial toxins. In 1975, a protein responsible for the induction of this process was identified and called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). The application of recombinant DNA methodology has resulted in the production of large quantities of highly purified recombinant human TNF-alpha for both preclinical and clinical studies. Although TNF-alpha is still viewed by most investigators as a selective antitumor agent, its pleiotropic activities are admirably illustrated by numerous newly discovered functions of TNF-alpha in the host defenses, inflammation, pathogenesis, regulation of gene expression and differentiation. This literature survey discusses the discovery of TNF-alpha and its potential applications to antitumour therapy.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / history
  • Immunotherapy / trends
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / history
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / administration & dosage
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / history
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / therapeutic use*


  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha