Serum amyloid A and inflammasome activation: A link to breast cancer progression?

Carla Fourie, Preetha Shridas, Tanja Davis, Willem J.S. de Villiers, Anna Mart Engelbrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women globally. Although there have been many significant advances made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, numerous unresolved challenges remain, which include prevention, early diagnosis, metastasis and recurrence. The role of inflammation in cancer development is well established and is believed to be one of the leading hallmarks of cancer progression. Recently, the role of the inflammasome, a cytosolic multiprotein complex, has received attention in different cancers. By contributing to the activation of inflammatory cytokines the inflammasome intensifies the inflammatory cascade. The inflammasome can be activated through several pathways, which include the binding of pattern associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) to toll-like receptors (TLRs). Serum amyloid A (SAA), a non-specific acute-phase protein, can function as an endogenous DAMP by binding to pattern recognition receptors like TLRs on both breast cancer cells and cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs). SAA can thus stimulate the production of IL-1β, thereby creating a favourable inflammatory environment to support tumour growth. The aim of this review is to highlight the possible role of SAA as an endogenous DAMP in the tumour microenvironment (TME) thereby promoting breast cancer growth through the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalCytokine and Growth Factor Reviews
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Professor Anna-Mart Engelbrecht PhD, Medical Physiology. Department of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch. Anna-Mart Engelbrecht is currently professor in the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University. She completed a BSc (Hons) in Physionces at Stellenbosch University. She completed a BSc (Hons) in Physiology at Stellenbosch University, a MMedSc at the University of the Free State and received her PhD in 2005 at Stellenbosch University. She received several prestigious awards which include the Dean’s and Senate’s Medals as well as the Gencor Bronze Medal from the University of the Free State, the Marie Curie Scholarship of the European Union, the Rector’s award for Excellence in Research and the Vice-Rector’s Research Award for exceptional achievement from Stellenbosch University as well as the Lasec Award for Excellence in Physiology Research from the Physiological Society of Southern Africa (PSSA). Seventeen MSc and fifteen PhD students completed the degrees under her supervision; she currently serves as promotor and co-promotor for eight PhD students. She has published 76 peer reviewed, research articles and presented invited lectures at national and international conferences. She established the Cancer Research Group (CRG) where they investigate chemo-resistance and mechanisms to counteract chemotherapy-induced damage to the heart and skeletal muscle; as well as metabolic pathways in the cancer micro-environment.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Breast cancer
  • Inflammasome
  • Interleukin-1
  • Serum amyloid A
  • Toll-like receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)


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