Innate immune cells in breast cancer--from villains to heroes?

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2011 Sep;16(3):189-203. doi: 10.1007/s10911-011-9224-2. Epub 2011 Jul 26.


The innate immune system ensures effective protection against foreign pathogens and plays important roles in tissue remodeling. There are many types of innate immune cells, including monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and granulocytes. Interestingly, these cells accumulate in most solid tumors, including those of the breast. There, they play a tumor-promoting role through secretion of growth and angiogenic factors, as well as immunosuppressive molecules. This is in strong contrast to the tumor-suppressing effects that innate immune cells exert in vitro upon proper activation. Therapeutic approaches have been developed with the aim of achieving similar suppressive activities in vivo. However, multiple factors in the tumor microenvironment, many of which are immunosuppressive, represent a major obstacle to effective treatment. Here, we discuss the potential of combating breast cancer through activation of the innate immune system, including possible strategies to enhance the success of immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / immunology


  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins