The Versatile World of Inflammatory Chemokines in Cancer

  • Tal Leibovich-Rivkin
  • Yaeli Lebel-Haziv
  • Shalom Lerrer
  • Polina Weitzenfeld
  • Adit Ben-BaruchEmail author


Until recently, inflammatory chemokines were viewed mainly as indispensable “gate keepers” of immunity and inflammation. However, updated research indicates that members of this chemokine sub-family are important constituents of the tumor microenvironment, having multifaceted tumor-promoting roles in cancer. A very large number of studies indicate that many of the inflammatory chemokines are exploited by the tumor cells for their own benefit, and are actually skewed to the pro-malignancy phenotype. The different chemokines may be simultaneously expressed at the tumor site, having overlapping but also distinct tumor-promoting impacts. In general (except for the axis of CXCR3 and its ligands, that acts as a “double-edged sword”), the inflammatory chemokines induce immune imbalance at primary tumors and metastatic sites, doing so by promoting the presence and activation of tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and/or T regulatory cells (Treg). In parallel, immune suppression is ensued due to inhibition of Th1 cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). The chemokines also elevate metastasis-related processes, such as angiogenesis and osteoclastogenesis in the bone. Furthermore, they act directly on the tumor cells, promoting their proliferation, migration and invasion properties. Obviously, not all chemokines have the same pro-malignancy roles; however, chemokines that share the same receptor tend to have much in common in terms of their pro-cancerous activities. Accordingly, we will describe the roles of inflammatory chemokines in malignancy by using a receptor-based categorization: (1) CXCR1 and CXCR2 with their ELR+ CXC chemokine ligands, primarily CXCL8 (IL-8) but also CXCL1 (MGSA, GROα) and CXCL5 (ENA-78); (2) CXCR3 with its non-ELR CXC chemokine ligands: CXCL9 (Mig), CXCL10 (IP-10) and CXCL11 (I-Tac); (3) CCR2 and its ligands, mainly CCL2 (MCP-1); (4) CCR5 and its corresponding chemokines, with major emphasis on CCL5 (RANTES) and CCL3 (MIP-1α). Based on the findings obtained so far, we propose that inflammatory chemokines and their receptors are attractive therapeutic targets in malignancy, and discuss the expected difficulties in translating such approaches in the clinic.


Inflammatory chemokines CXCR1/CXCR2 ligands CXCR3 ligands CCR2 ligands CCR5 ligands, TAM, MDSC, T cells 



The authors thank the following organizations for supporting the studies related to this review, performed in Dr. Ben-Baruch’s laboratory: Israel Science Foundation, The Cooperation Program in Cancer Research of the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DKFZ) and Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Israel Ministry of Health, Israeli Cancer Association and Federico Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tal Leibovich-Rivkin
    • 1
  • Yaeli Lebel-Haziv
    • 1
  • Shalom Lerrer
    • 1
  • Polina Weitzenfeld
    • 1
  • Adit Ben-Baruch
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Cell Research and Immunology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life SciencesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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