The Yin and Yang of Toll-like receptors in cancer

Oncogene. 2014 Jul 3;33(27):3485-95. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.302. Epub 2013 Aug 12.


Recognition of non-self molecular patterns by pattern recognition receptors is a cornerstone of innate immunity. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) exert a key role in recognizing pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) but have also been implicated in the recognition of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). As such, TLRs regulate a wide range of biological responses including inflammatory and immune responses during carcinogenesis. The high expression of TLRs by antigen-presenting cells, including dendritic cells, and their ability to induce antitumor mediators such as type I interferon has led to efforts to utilize TLR agonists in tumor therapy in order to convert the often tolerant immune response toward antitumor responses. However, TLRs are also increasingly recognized as regulators of tumor-promoting inflammation and promoters of tumor survival signals. Here, we will review in detail the dichotomous role of TLRs in tumor biology, focusing on relevant TLR-dependent pro- and antitumor pathways, and discuss clinical applications of TLR-targeted therapies for tumor prevention and treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*
  • Yin-Yang


  • Ligands
  • Toll-Like Receptors