Decoding Dangerous Death: How Cytotoxic Chemotherapy Invokes Inflammation, Immunity or Nothing at All

Cell Death Differ. 2008 Jan;15(1):13-20. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4402255. Epub 2007 Nov 16.


Chemotherapy and immunotherapy can be either synergistic or antagonistic modalities in the treatment of cancer. Cytotoxic chemotherapy not only affects the tumor but also targets dividing lymphocytes, the very cells that are required to develop an immune response. For this reason, chemo- and immunotherapy have been seen as antagonistic. However, cell death can be immunogenic and the way in which chemotherapeutic drug kills a tumor cell is likely to be an important determinant of how that dying cell interacts with the immune system and whether the interaction will lead to an immune response. When a cell dies as the result of infection, the immune system responds rapidly and the system of Toll-like receptors (TLR) plays a key role in this process. In this review, we will briefly summarize the intracellular signaling pathways that link TLR ligation with immune activation and we will address the questions where and how TLRs recognize their targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Cell Death
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunotherapy
  • Infections / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Toll-Like Receptors