Cytokine- and chemokine-based gene therapy for cancer

Curr Opin Mol Ther. 2003 Oct;5(5):463-74.


Cytokines are protein/glycoprotein messengers of the immune system and have distinct autocrine and paracrine functions to modulate immunity. Recombinant cytokine proteins have been employed as biological drugs for cancer, viral and autoimmune targets. Unfortunately, systemic delivery of pharmacological doses of proteins often results in severe side effects and toxicities. As these therapeutic proteins tend to have very short half-lives and are complex to manufacture and deliver, many investigators are evaluating the genetic delivery of cytokine genes. Here, some of the promising cytokines currently under investigation for cancer therapies are examined, including interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-12, IL-24, interferon (IFN)-alpha, IFN beta, IFN gamma, granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha. Chemokines are smaller chemotactic cytokines which induce migration of leukocytes, activate inflammatory responses, and are implicated in the regulation of tumor development and growth. Chemokines can modulate tumor growth via regulation of tumor-associated angiogenesis, by activation of host immunological responses or by direct inhibition of tumor cell proliferation. In this review, chemokines that have been proposed as antitumor drugs will be discussed, including Glu-Leu-Arg (ELR)-negative chemokines such as IP-10, MCP-3, MIG and SDF-1 alpha from the human CXC and C-C chemokine families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemokines / genetics*
  • Chemokines / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Cytokines / therapeutic use
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines