Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) have emerged as major regulators of immune responses in cancer and other pathological conditions. In recent years, ample evidence supports key contributions of MDSC to tumour progression through both immune-mediated mechanisms and those not directly associated with immune suppression. MDSC are the subject of intensive research with >500 papers published in 2015 alone. However, the phenotypic, morphological and functional heterogeneity of these cells generates confusion in investigation and analysis of their roles in inflammatory responses. The purpose of this communication is to suggest characterization standards in the burgeoning field of MDSC research.