Hyaluronan, inflammation, and breast cancer progression

Kathryn L. Schwertfeger, Mary K. Cowman, Patrick G. Telmer, Eva A. Turley, James B. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Breast cancer-induced inflammation in the tumor reactive stroma supports invasion and malignant progression and is contributed to by a variety of host cells including macrophages and fibroblasts. Inflammation appears to be initiated by tumor cells and surrounding host fibroblasts that secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines and remodel the extracellular matrix (ECM) to create a pro-inflammatory "cancerized" or tumor reactive microenvironment that supports tumor expansion and invasion. The tissue polysaccharide hyaluronan (HA) is an example of an ECM component within the cancerized microenvironment that promotes breast cancer progression. Like many ECM molecules, the function of native high-molecular weight HA is altered by fragmentation, which is promoted by oxygen/nitrogen free radicals and release of hyaluronidases within the tumor microenvironment. HA fragments are pro-inflammatory and activate signaling pathways that promote survival, migration, and invasion within both tumor and host cells through binding to HA receptors such as CD44 and RHAMM/HMMR. In breast cancer, elevated HA in the peri-tumor stroma and increased HA receptor expression are prognostic for poor outcome and are associated with disease recurrence. This review addresses the critical issues regarding tumor-induced inflammation and its role in breast cancer progression focusing specifically on the changes in HA metabolism within tumor reactive stroma as a key factor in malignant progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number236
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - 2015


  • Breast cancer
  • CD44
  • Hyaluronan
  • Inflammation
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • macrophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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