The response of the body to a cancer is not a unique mechanism but has many parallels with inflammation and wound healing. This article reviews the links between cancer and inflammation and discusses the implications of these links for cancer prevention and treatment. We suggest that the inflammatory cells and cytokines found in tumours are more likely to contribute to tumour growth, progression, and immunosuppression than they are to mount an effective host antitumour response. Moreover cancer susceptibility and severity may be associated with functional polymorphisms of inflammatory cytokine genes, and deletion or inhibition of inflammatory cytokines inhibits development of experimental cancer. If genetic damage is the "match that lights the fire" of cancer, some types of inflammation may provide the "fuel that feeds the flames". Over the past ten years information about the cytokine and chemokine network has led to development of a range of cytokine/chemokine antagonists targeted at inflammatory and allergic diseases. The first of these to enter the clinic, tumour necrosis factor antagonists, have shown encouraging efficacy. In this article we have provided a rationale for the use of cytokine and chemokine blockade, and further investigation of non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, in the chemoprevention and treatment of malignant diseases.
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