Cytokines in breast cancer

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2006 Oct;17(5):325-37. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2006.07.002. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


In recent decades many advances have occurred in the understanding of the role of cytokines in breast cancer. New signalling pathways of interleukin (IL)-1 family, IL-6, IL-11, IL-18, interferons (IFNs) and interferon regulatory factors 1 (IRF-1) and 2 (IRF-2) have been found within tumour microenvironments and in metastatic sites. Some cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, IL-11, TGFbeta) stimulate while others (IL-12, IL-18, IFNs) inhibit breast cancer proliferation and/or invasion. Similarly, high circulating levels of some cytokines seem to be favourable (soluble IL-2R) while others are unfavourable (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-18, gp130) prognostic indicators. So far IL-2, IFNalpha, IFNbeta and occasionally IFNgamma, IL-6, IL-12 have been the cytokines used for anti tumour treatment of advanced breast cancer either to induce or increase hormone sensitivity and/or to stimulate cellular immunity. Disappointing results occurred in most trials; however, two long-term pilot studies suggest that IL-2 and IFNbeta, when used appropriately can have a positive effect on clinical benefit and overall survival of patients with minimal residual disease after chemotherapy or with disseminated disease controlled by conventional endocrine therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Interferons / physiology
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Interleukins / physiology
  • Interleukins / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Interferons