The multifaceted roles of chemokines in malignancy

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2006 Sep;25(3):357-71. doi: 10.1007/s10555-006-9003-5.


Tumor development and progression are multifactorial processes, regulated by a large variety of intrinsic and microenvironmental factors. A key role in cancer is played by members of the chemokine superfamily. Chemokines and their receptors are expressed by tumor cells and by host cells, in primary tumors and in specific metastatic loci. The effects of chemokines on tumorigenesis are diverse: While some members of the superfamily significantly support this process, others inhibit fundamental events required for tumor establishment and metastasis. The current review describes the multifaceted roles of chemokines in malignancy, addressing four major aspects of their activities: (1) inducing leukocyte infiltration to tumors and regulating immune functions, with emphasis on tumor-associated macrophages (and the chemokines CCL2, CCL5), T cells (and the chemokines CXCL9, CXCL10) and dendritic cells (and the chemokines CCL19, CCL20, CCL21); (2) directing the homing of tumor cells to specific metastatic sites (the CXCL12-CXCR4 axis); (3) regulating angiogenic processes (mainly the ELR(+)-CXC and non-ELR-CXC chemokines); (4) acting directly on the tumor cells to control their malignancy-related functions. Together, these different chemokine functions establish a net of interactions between the tumor cells and their microenvironment, and partly dictate the fate of the malignancy cascade.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemokines / physiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Receptors, Chemokine / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Chemokine