TGF-beta and immune cells: an important regulatory axis in the tumor microenvironment and progression

Trends Immunol. 2010 Jun;31(6):220-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Jun 1.


Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) plays an important role in tumor initiation and progression, functioning as both a suppressor and a promoter. The mechanisms underlying this dual role of TGF-beta remain unclear. TGF-beta exerts systemic immune suppression and inhibits host immunosurveillance. Neutralizing TGF-beta enhances CD8+ T-cell- and NK-cell-mediated anti-tumor immune responses. It also increases neutrophil-attracting chemokines resulting in recruitment and activation of neutrophils with an antitumor phenotype. In addition to its systemic effects, TGF-beta regulates infiltration of inflammatory/immune cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment causing direct changes in tumor cells. Understanding TGF-beta regulation at the interface of tumor and host immunity should provide insights into developing effective TGF-beta antagonists and biomarkers for patient selection and efficacy of TGF-beta antagonist treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta