TNF-alpha and its inhibitors in cancer

Med Oncol. 2010 Jun;27(2):185-98. doi: 10.1007/s12032-009-9190-3. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha is implicated in the same time in apoptosis and in cell proliferation. TNF-alpha not only acts as pro-inflammatory cytokine conducing to wide spectrum of human diseases including inflammatory diseases, but can also induce tumor development. The molecular mechanisms of TNF-alpha functions have been intensively investigated. In this review we covered TNF-alpha, the molecule, its signaling pathway, and its therapeutic functions. We provide a particular insight in its paradoxical role in tumor promotion and in its use as anti-tumor agent. This review considers also the recent findings regarding TNF-alpha inhibitors, their pharmacokinetics, and their pharmacodynamics. Six TNF-alpha inhibitors have been considered here: Infliximab, Adalimumab, Golimumab, CDP870, CDP571, Etanercept, and Thalidomide. We discussed the clinical relevance of their functions in treatment of several diseases such as advanced inflammatory rheumatic and bowel disease, with a focus in cancer treatment. Targeting TNF-alpha by these drugs has many side effects like malignancies development, and the long-term sequels are not very well explored. Their efficacy and their safety were discussed, underscoring the necessity of close patients monitoring and of their caution use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha