Members of the Notch family and chronic inflammation were each separately demonstrated to have prominent malignancy-supporting roles in breast cancer. Recent investigations indicate that bi-directional interactions that exist between these two pathways promote the malignancy phenotype of breast tumor cells and of their tumor microenvironment. In this review article, we demonstrate the importance of Notch-inflammation interplays in malignancy by describing three key networks that act in breast cancer and their impacts on functions that contribute to disease progression: (1) Cross-talks of the Notch pathway with myeloid cells that are important players in cancer-related inflammation, focusing mainly on macrophages; (2) Cross-talks of the Notch pathway with pro-inflammatory factors, exemplified mainly by Notch interactions with interleukin 6 and its downstream pathways (STAT3); (3) Cross-talks of the Notch pathway with typical inflammatory transcription factors, primarily NF-κB. These three networks enhance tumor-promoting functions in different breast tumor subtypes and act in reciprocal manners, whereby Notch family members activate inflammatory elements and vice versa. These characteristics illustrate the fundamental roles played by Notch-inflammation interactions in elevating breast cancer progression and propose that joint targeting of both pathways together may provide more effective and less toxic treatment approaches in this disease.
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