Tumor necrosis factor, cancer and anticancer therapy

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2005 Feb;16(1):35-53. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2004.11.001. Epub 2004 Dec 19.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is being utilized as an antineoplastic agent for the treatment of patients with locally advanced solid tumors. However, its role in cancer therapy is debated. Although a large body of evidence supports TNF's antineoplastic activity, the cascade of molecular events underlying TNF-mediated tumor regression observed in vivo is still incompletely elucidated. Intriguingly, some pre-clinical findings suggest that TNF may promote cancer development and progression, which has led to propose anti-TNF therapy as a novel approach to malignancies. In the present work, we summarize the molecular biology of TNF with particular regard to its tumor-related properties, and review the experimental and clinical evidence currently available describing the complex and sometime conflicting relationship between this cytokine, cancer and antitumor therapy. Recent insights that might pave the way to further exploitation of the antineoplastic potential of TNF are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha