Mechanisms of immune evasion in breast cancer

BMC Cancer. 2018 May 11;18(1):556. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4441-3.


Tumors develop multiple mechanisms of immune evasion as they progress, with some cancer types being inherently better at 'hiding' than others. With an increased understanding of tumor immune surveillance, immunotherapy has emerged as a promising treatment strategy for breast cancer, despite historically being thought of as an immunologically silent neoplasm. Some types of cancer, such as melanoma, bladder, and renal cell carcinoma, have demonstrated a durable response to immunotherapeutic intervention, however, breast neoplasms have not shown the same efficacy. The causes of breast cancer's immune silence derive from mechanisms that diminish immune recognition and others that promote strong immunosuppression. It is the mechanisms of immune evasion in breast cancers that are poorly defined. Thus, further characterization is critical for the development of better therapies. This brief review will seek to provide insight into the possible causes of weak immunogenicity and immune suppression mediated by breast cancers and highlight current immunotherapies being used to restore immune responses to breast cancer.

Keywords: Cytokines; Dendritic cells; Immunity; Immunotherapy; Lymphocytes; Myeloid derived suppressor cells; PD-1; Regulatory T cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Escape / immunology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology