Role of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in tumor recurrence

Kathryn Cole, Zaid Al-Kadhimi, James E. Talmadge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The establishment of primary tumor cells in distant organs, termed metastasis, is the principal cause of cancer mortality and is a crucial therapeutic target in oncology. Thus, it is critical to establish a better understanding of metastatic progression for the future development of improved therapeutic approaches. Indeed, such development requires insight into the timing of tumor cell dissemination and seeding of distant organs resulting in occult lesions. Following dissemination of tumor cells from the primary tumor, they can reside in niches in distant organs for years or decades, following which they can emerge as an overt metastasis. This timeline of metastatic dormancy is regulated by interactions between the tumor, its microenvironment, angiogenesis, and tumor antigen-specific T-cell responses. An improved understanding of the mechanisms and interactions responsible for immune evasion and tumor cell release from dormancy would help identify and aid in the development of novel targeted therapeutics. One such mediator of dormancy is myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC), whose number in the peripheral blood (PB) or infiltrating tumors has been associated with cancer stage, grade, patient survival, and metastasis in a broad range of tumor pathologies. Thus, extensive studies have revealed a role for MDSCs in tumor escape from adoptive and innate immune responses, facilitating tumor progression and metastasis; however, few studies have considered their role in dormancy. We have posited that MDSCs may regulate disseminated tumor cells resulting in resurgence of senescent tumor cells. In this review, we discuss clinical studies that address mechanisms of tumor recurrence including from dormancy, the role of MDSCs in their escape from dormancy during recurrence, the development of occult metastases, and the potential for MDSC inhibition as an approach to prolong the survival of patients with advanced malignancies. We stress that assessing the impact of therapies on MDSCs versus other cellular targets is challenging within the multimodality interventions required clinically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-142
Number of pages30
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Dormancy
  • Metastasis
  • Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
  • Pre-metastatic niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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