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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2014 Apr;40(3):277-83. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1370765. Epub 2014 Mar 3.

NETosis: a new factor in tumor progression and cancer-associated thrombosis.

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Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.


Neutrophils have long been known as innate immune cells that phagocytose and kill pathogens and mount inflammatory responses protecting the host from infection. In the past decades, new aspects of neutrophils have emerged unmasking their importance not only in inflammation but also in many pathological conditions including thrombosis and cancer. The 2004 discovery that neutrophils, upon strong activation, release decondensed chromatin to form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), has unveiled new avenues of research. Here, we review current knowledge regarding NETs in thrombosis, with a special focus on cancer-associated thrombosis as well as their potential role in cancer growth and metastasis. We discuss the prospective use of NET-specific biomarkers, such as citrullinated histone H3 and NET inhibitors, as tools to anticipate and fight cancer-associated thrombosis. We propose that the rapid developments in the field of NETosis may provide new targets to combat the thrombotic consequences of cancer and perhaps even help to contain the disease itself.

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