Targeting and exploitation of tumor-associated neutrophils to enhance immunotherapy and drug delivery for cancer treatment

Yuting Zhang, Guoqiang Liu, Miaomiao Sun, et al.


Neutrophils, the most abundant leukocytes in human blood, are essential fighter immune cells against microbial infection. Based on the finding that neutrophils can either restrict or promote cancer progression, tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) are classified into anti-tumor N1 and pro-tumor N2 subsets. One of the major mechanisms underlying the tumor-promoting function of N2-TANs is suppression of adaptive immune cells, in particular, cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Currently, no established methodologies are available that can unequivocally distinguish immunosuppressive TANs and granulocytic/polymorphonuclear myeloid-derived suppressor cells (G/PMN-MDSC). In view of the critical role of PMN-MDSCs in immune evasion and resistance to cancer immunotherapy, as established from data obtained with diverse cancer models, therapeutic strategies targeting these cells have been actively developed to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy. Here, we have reviewed the available literature on strategies targeting PMN-MDSCs and summarized the findings into four categories: (1) depletion of existing PMN-MDSCs, (2) blockade of the development of PMNMDSCs, (3) blockade of PMN-MDSC recruitment, (4) inhibition of immunosuppressive function. Owing to their high mobility to inflamed organs and ability to trespass the blood-brain barrier, neutrophils are outstanding candidate carriers in nanoparticle-based therapies. Another attractive application of neutrophils in cancer therapy is the use of neutrophil membrane-derived nanovesicles as a surrogate of extracellular vesicles for more efficient and scalable drug delivery. In the second part of the review, we have highlighted recent advances in the field of neutrophil-based cancer drug delivery. Overall, we believe that neutrophil-based therapeutics are a rapidly growing area of cancer therapy with significant potential benefits.

Cite this article as: Zhang Y, Liu G, Sun M, Lu X. Targeting and exploitation of tumor-associated neutrophils to enhance immunotherapy and drug delivery for cancer treatment. Cancer Biol Med. 2020; 17: 32-43. doi: 10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2019.0372


Tumor-associated neutrophil; polymorphonuclear myeloid-derived suppressor cell; immunosuppression; cancer immunotherapy; nanoparticle drug delivery

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.