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J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2013 Dec;18(3-4):291-307. doi: 10.1007/s10911-013-9299-z. Epub 2013 Oct 30.

The obesity-inflammation-eicosanoid axis in breast cancer.

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Department of Surgery and Breast Cancer Research Program, Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 9238, Morgantown, WV, 26506, USA,


Inflammation of the adipose tissues occurs in association with obesity. This inflammatory process leads to the induction of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression and a consequent elevation in prostaglandin (PG) production, which, together with proinflammatory cytokines, induce aromatase expression and estrogen synthesis. Infiltrating macrophages support the growth of breast epithelial cells and vascular endothelial cells by producing a milieu of cytokines and growth factors. This scenario creates a microenvironment favorable to breast cancer growth and invasion. The eicosanoids promote further development and growth of breast cancers indirectly by the induction of aromatase, particularly in estrogen positive breast cancers, or by direct stimulatory effect of PGE2 and lipoxygenase (LOX) products on the more aggressive, estrogen-independent tumors. Beyond this, the local production of estrogens and proinflammatory cytokines which occurs in association with breast adipose tissue inflammation, and consequent activation of the estrogen receptor and nuclear factor-κB, provides a mechanism by which breast cancers develop resistance to selective estrogen receptor modulation and aromatase inhibitor therapy. The obesity-inflammation-eicosanoid axis in breast cancer does offer a therapeutic target for the prevention of relapse in breast cancer by improving the efficacy of antiaromatase therapy using COX/LOX inhibitors; however, careful consideration of menopausal status and obesity in patients is warranted.

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