Neutrophil extracellular traps in breast cancer and beyond: current perspectives on NET stimuli, thrombosis and metastasis, and clinical utility for diagnosis and treatment

Breast Cancer Res. 2019 Dec 18;21(1):145. doi: 10.1186/s13058-019-1237-6.


The formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), known as NETosis, was first observed as a novel immune response to bacterial infection, but has since been found to occur abnormally in a variety of other inflammatory disease states including cancer. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in women. In breast cancer, NETosis has been linked to increased disease progression, metastasis, and complications such as venous thromboembolism. NET-targeted therapies have shown success in preclinical cancer models and may prove valuable clinical targets in slowing or halting tumor progression in breast cancer patients. We will briefly outline the mechanisms by which NETs may form in the tumor microenvironment and circulation, including the crosstalk between neutrophils, tumor cells, endothelial cells, and platelets as well as the role of cancer-associated extracellular vesicles in modulating neutrophil behavior and NET extrusion. The prognostic implications of cancer-associated NETosis will be explored in addition to development of novel therapeutics aimed at targeting NET interactions to improve outcomes in patients with breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Metastasis; Neutrophil extracellular traps; Venous thromboembolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Disease Management
  • Extracellular Traps / immunology
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Thrombosis
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Biomarkers