Tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) develop pro-tumorigenic properties during tumor progression

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2013 Nov;62(11):1745-56. doi: 10.1007/s00262-013-1476-9. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


The role and characteristics of tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) in cancer are poorly defined. We have recently shown that TAN can have anti-tumorigenic (N1) or pro-tumorigenic (N2) functions. An interesting unanswered question is how the phenotype of TAN is influenced by the ongoing evolvement of tumor microenvironment. We therefore studied the phenotype and effects of TAN at different time points during tumor progression. We used two models of murine tumor cancer cell lines-Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) and AB12 (mesothelioma). Neutrophils were studied at early and late stages and compared to each other and to neutrophils from bone marrow/periphery of naïve mice. Although there was no difference in the number of neutrophils entering the tumor, we found that at early stages of tumor development, neutrophils were almost exclusively at the periphery of the tumor. Only at later stages, neutrophils were also found scattered among the tumor cells. We further found that TAN from early tumors are more cytotoxic toward tumor cells and produce higher levels of TNF-α, NO and H2O2. In established tumors, these functions are down-regulated and TAN acquire a more pro-tumorigenic phenotype. In line with this phenotype, only depletion of neutrophils at later stages of tumor development inhibited tumor growth, possibly due to their central location in the tumor. Our work adds another important layer to the understanding of neutrophils in cancer by further characterizing the changes in TAN during time. Additional research on the functional role of TAN and differences between subsets of TAN is currently underway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antigens, Ly / immunology
  • Antigens, Ly / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / genetics
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / immunology*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / immunology
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / immunology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Burden / genetics
  • Tumor Burden / immunology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Ly
  • Cytokines
  • Ly6G antigen, mouse
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Hydrogen Peroxide