• Open Access

Inflammation and Cancer: A Comparative View


  • Wallace B. Morrison

    Corresponding author
    • Diplomate ACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine), Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
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Corresponding author: Wallace B. Morrison, DVM, MS, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, 625 Harrison Street, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, e-mail: wbm@purdue.edu


Rudolph Virchow first speculated on a relationship between inflammation and cancer more than 150 years ago. Subsequently, chronic inflammation and associated reactive free radical overload and some types of bacterial, viral, and parasite infections that cause inflammation were recognized as important risk factors for cancer development and account for one in four of all human cancers worldwide. Even viruses that do not directly cause inflammation can cause cancer when they act in conjunction with proinflammatory cofactors or when they initiate or promote cancer via the same signaling pathways utilized in inflammation. Whatever its origin, inflammation in the tumor microenvironment has many cancer-promoting effects and aids in the proliferation and survival of malignant cells and promotes angiogenesis and metastasis. Mediators of inflammation such as cytokines, free radicals, prostaglandins, and growth factors can induce DNA damage in tumor suppressor genes and post-translational modifications of proteins involved in essential cellular processes including apoptosis, DNA repair, and cell cycle checkpoints that can lead to initiation and progression of cancer.