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TNF is a multifunctional cytokine with profound and diverse effects on physiology and pathology. Identifying the molecular determinants underlying the functions and pathogenic effects of TNF is key to understanding its mechanisms of action and identifying new therapeutic opportunities based on this important molecule. Previously, we showed that some evolutionarily-conserved peptides derived from TNF could induce cell death (e.g. apoptosis and/or necrosis), a feature of immune defence mechanisms shared by many vertebrates. In this study, we demonstrated that necrosis-inducing peptide P16 kills human glioblastoma cancer cells and primary human hepatoma or renal cancer cells isolated from patients who had not responded to standard treatments. Importantly we show that the necrosis-inducing peptide P1516 significantly improves survival by inhibiting tumour metastasis in a 4T1 breast cancer syngeneic graft mouse model. As the lymphatic system is an important metastatic route in many cancers, we also tested the effect of TNF-derived peptides on monolayers of primary human lymphatic endothelial cells (hDLEC) and found that they increased junctional permeability by inducing cytoskeletal reorganisation, gap junction formation and cell death. TEM imaging evidence, structural analysis and in vitro liposome leakage experiments strongly suggest that this killing is due to the cytolytic nature of these peptides. P1516 provides another example of a pro-cytotoxic TNF peptide that likely functions as a cryptic necrotic factor released by TNF degradation. Its ability to inhibit tumour metastasis and improve survival may form the basis of a novel approach to cancer therapy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical and experimental immunology

Publication Date



Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus Research Building, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford, OX3 7DQ, UK.