Accumulating evidence indicates a critical role of myeloid cells in the pathophysiology of human cancers. In contrast to the well-characterized tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), the significance of granulocytes in cancer has only recently begun to emerge. Increased numbers of neutrophil granulocytes have been observed both in the peripheral blood and in the tumor tissues of patients with different types of cancer. Importantly, these studies linked neutrophils to poor clinical outcome in cancer patients which suggests that these cells might have important tumor-promoting activities. Indeed, a number of functional in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that tumors stimulated neutrophils to promote angiogenesis and immunosuppression, as well as migration, invasion and metastasis of the tumor cells. Therefore, it became necessary to understand the mechanisms modulating the changes in the biology and functions of neutrophils in the context of the tumor microenvironment. In this review we will discuss several functions of neutrophils that might contribute to tumor progression. Furthermore, we will address in detail the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control modulation of neutrophils in the tumor microenvironment, such as recruitment to the tumor site (chemotaxis), prolonged survival and enhanced release of protumoral mediators.
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