The role of cytokines in the epithelial cancer microenvironment

Semin Cancer Biol. 2002 Apr;12(2):113-20. doi: 10.1006/scbi.2001.0419.


The epithelial tumour microenvironment is a complex tissue comprising variable numbers of tumour cells, fibroblasts, endothelial cells and infiltrating leucocytes. Cytokines are key molecules controlling autocrine or paracrine communications within and between these individual cell types. Under some circumstances, endogenous cytokines may orchestrate host responses against the tumour, but there is increasing evidence that the cytokine network contributes to tumour growth, progression and host immuno-suppression. In this review we outline some of the actions of endogenous cytokines in epithelial tumours with particular emphasis on tumour necrosis factor alpha, TNF, related inflammatory cytokines and the chemokine group of chemoattractant cytokines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Epithelium / pathology*
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha