Neutrophils: Important Contributors to Tumor Progression and Metastasis

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2015 Dec;34(4):735-51. doi: 10.1007/s10555-015-9594-9.


The presence of neutrophils in tumors has traditionally been considered to be indicative of a failed immune response against cancers. However, there is now evidence showing that neutrophils can promote tumor growth, and increasingly, the data support an active role for neutrophils in tumor progression to distant metastasis. Neutrophils have been implicated in promoting metastasis in cancer patients, where neutrophil numbers and neutrophil-related factors and functions have been associated with progressive disease. Nevertheless, the role of neutrophils in tumors, both at the primary and secondary sites, remains controversial, with some studies reporting their anti-tumor functions. This review will focus on the data demonstrating a role for neutrophils in both tumor growth and metastasis and will attempt to clarify the discrepancies in the literature.

Keywords: Cancer; Inflammation; Metastasis; Neutrophils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / immunology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / immunology
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Prognosis
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor