Mammary gland involution as an immunotherapeutic target for postpartum breast cancer

Jaime Fornetti, Holly A. Martinson, Courtney B. Betts, Traci R. Lyons, Sonali Jindal, Qiuchen Guo, Lisa M. Coussens, Virginia F. Borges, Pepper Schedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Postpartum mammary gland involution has been identified as tumor-promotional and is proposed to contribute to the increased rates of metastasis and poor survival observed in postpartum breast cancer patients. In rodent models, the involuting mammary gland microenvironment is sufficient to induce enhanced tumor cell growth, local invasion, and metastasis. Postpartum involution shares many attributes with wound healing, including upregulation of genes involved in immune responsiveness and infiltration of tissue by immune cells. In rodent models, treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ameliorates the tumor-promotional effects of involution, consistent with the immune milieu of the involuting gland contributing to tumor promotion. Currently, immunotherapy is being investigated as a means of breast cancer treatment with the purpose of identifying ways to enhance anti-tumor immune responses. Here we review evidence for postpartum mammary gland involution being a uniquely defined 'hot-spot' of pro-tumorigenic immune cell infiltration, and propose that immunotherapy should be explored for prevention and treatment of breast cancers that arise in this environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-228
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Chemoprevention
  • Immunotherapy
  • Macrophages
  • Microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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