Pyroptosis: a new paradigm of cell death for fighting against cancer

Yixin Tan, Quanzhu Chen, Xiaoling Li, Zhaoyang Zeng, Wei Xiong, Guiyuan Li, Xiayu Li, Jianbo Yang, Bo Xiang, Mei Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Background: Unraveling the mystery of cell death is one of the most fundamental progresses of life sciences during the past decades. Regulated cell death (RCD) or programmed cell death (PCD) is not only essential in embryonic development, but also plays an important role in the occurrence and progression of diseases, especially cancers. Escaping of cell death is one of hallmarks of cancer. Main body: Pyroptosis is an inflammatory cell death usually caused by microbial infection, accompanied by activation of inflammasomes and maturation of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and interleukin-18 (IL-18). Gasdermin family proteins are the executors of pyroptosis. Cytotoxic N-terminal of gasdermins generated from caspases or granzymes proteases mediated cleavage of gasdermin proteins oligomerizes and forms pore across cell membrane, leading to release of IL-1β, IL-18. Pyroptosis exerts tumor suppression function and evokes anti-tumor immune responses. Therapeutic regimens, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy and immune therapy, induce pyroptosis in cancer, which potentiate local and systemic anti-tumor immunity. On the other hand, pyroptosis of normal cells attributes to side effects of anti-cancer therapies. Conclusion: In this review, we focus on the regulatory mechanisms of pyroptosis and the tumor suppressive function of pyroptosis. We discuss the attribution of pyroptosis in reprogramming tumor microenvironments and restoration of anti-tumor immunity and its potential application in cancer immune therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by grants from The National Natural Science Foundation of China (81772902, 81872278, 81703131, 82072596), the National “111” Project (Project #111–2-12), the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province, China (2018JJ1040, 2020JJ4920, 2020JJ4838, 2020JJ4766, 2020JJ3055), the Hunan Provincial Key Research and Development Program (2018SK2130, 2018SK2131), and the Scientific Research Project of Hunan Provincial Health Commission (20201067, 20201040).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Adaptive immunity
  • Ferroptosis
  • Gasdermin
  • Immune checkpoint
  • Immunogenic cell death
  • Necroptosis
  • Tumor microenvironment


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