The role of complement in tumor growth

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014:772:229-62. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-5915-6_11.


Complement is a central part of the immune system that has developed as a first defense against non-self cells. Neoplastic transformation is accompanied by an increased capacity of the malignant cells to activate complement. In fact, clinical data demonstrate complement activation in cancer patients. On the basis of the use of protective mechanisms by malignant cells, complement activation has traditionally been considered part of the body's immunosurveillance against cancer. Inhibitory mechanisms of complement activation allow cancer cells to escape from complement-mediated elimination and hamper the clinical efficacy of monoclonal antibody-based cancer immunotherapies. To overcome this limitation, many strategies have been developed with the goal of improving complement-mediated effector mechanisms. However, significant work in recent years has identified new and surprising roles for complement activation within the tumor microenvironment. Recent reports suggest that complement elements can promote tumor growth in the context of chronic inflammation. This chapter reviews the data describing the role of complement activation in cancer immunity, which offers insights that may aid the development of more effective therapeutic approaches to control cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Complement Activation
  • Complement Pathway, Alternative / physiology
  • Complement Pathway, Classical / physiology
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity / physiology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Complement System Proteins