Cancer-associated myeloproliferation: old association, new therapeutic target

Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 Jul;85(7):656-63. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0077.


The association between malignancy and development of a paraneoplastic leukocytosis, the so-called leukemoid reaction, has long been appreciated. Although a leukemoid reaction has conventionally been defined as a peripheral blood leukocytosis composed of both mature and immature granulocytes that exceeds 50,000/microL, a less profound leukocytosis may be appreciated in many patients harboring a malignant disease. More recent insights have shed new light on this long-recognized association, because research performed in both murine models and cancer patients has uncovered multiple mechanisms by which tumors both drive myelopoiesis, sometimes leading to a clinically apparent leukocytosis, and inhibit the differentiation of myeloid cells, resulting in a qualitative change in myelopoiesis. This qualitative change leads to the accumulation of immature myeloid cells, which due to their immune suppressive effects have been collectively called myeloid-derived suppressor cells. More recently, myeloid cells have been shown to promote tumor angiogenesis. Cancer-associated myeloproliferation is not merely a paraneoplastic phenomenon of questionable importance but leads to the suppression of host immunity and promotion of tumor angiogenesis, both of which play an integral part in tumorigenesis and metastasis. Therefore, cancer-associated myeloproliferation represents a novel therapeutic target in cancer that, decades after its recognition, is only now being translated into clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD11b Antigen / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cocarcinogenesis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • HLA-DR Antigens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Immune Tolerance / physiology*
  • Inflammation
  • Leukemoid Reaction / blood
  • Leukemoid Reaction / drug therapy
  • Leukemoid Reaction / etiology*
  • Leukocytosis / etiology
  • Mice
  • Myeloid Cells / drug effects
  • Myeloid Cells / physiology*
  • Myelopoiesis / physiology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Prognosis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / drug effects
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology


  • CD11b Antigen
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A