Parasites as negative regulators of cancer

Biosci Rep. 2018 Oct 22;38(5):BSR20180935. doi: 10.1042/BSR20180935. Print 2018 Oct 31.


Several environmental factors (chemical, physical, and biological) can cause the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. Regarding the biological factors, several studies have found that infections caused by some bacteria, viruses and protozoan, and helminth parasites are related to carcinogenesis. However, in recent years a different approach has been implemented on the antitumor impact of parasitic diseases caused by some protozoan and helminths, mainly because such infections may affect several hallmarks of cancer, but the involved mechanisms still remain unknown. The beneficial effects reported for some parasitic diseases on tumorigenesis range from the induction of apoptosis, activation of the immune response, avoiding metastasis and angiogenesis, inhibition of proliferative signals, to the regulation of inflammatory responses that promote cancer. In this work, we reviewed the available information regarding how parasitic infections may modulate cancer progression. Despite the fact that specific mechanisms of action on tumors are not yet totally clear, we consider that detailed studies of the antitumor action of these organisms and their products could lead to the discovery and use of new molecules from these biological agents that may work as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of various types of cancer.

Keywords: helminth; inflammation; parasitic protozoa; tumor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Carcinogenesis / immunology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Helminths / immunology
  • Helminths / pathogenicity
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Active
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / parasitology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Parasitic Diseases / complications
  • Parasitic Diseases / genetics
  • Parasitic Diseases / parasitology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / pathology