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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 22;106(38):16387-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901250106. Epub 2009 Sep 4.

Genetic heterogeneity of Myc-induced mammary tumors reflecting diverse phenotypes including metastatic potential.

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  • 1Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Human cancers result from a complex series of genetic alterations, resulting in heterogeneous disease states. Dissecting this heterogeneity is critical for understanding underlying mechanisms and providing opportunities for therapeutics matching the complexity. Mouse models of cancer have generally been used to reduce this complexity and focus on the role of single genes. Nevertheless, our analysis of tumors arising in the MMTV-Myc model of mammary carcinogenesis reveals substantial heterogeneity, seen in both histological and expression phenotypes. One contribution to this heterogeneity is the substantial frequency of activating Ras mutations. Additionally, we show that these Myc-induced mammary tumors exhibit even greater heterogeneity, revealed by distinct histological subtypes as well as distinct patterns of gene expression, than many other mouse models of tumorigenesis. Two of the major histological subtypes are characterized by differential patterns of cellular signaling pathways, including beta-catenin and Stat3 activities. We also demonstrate that one of the MMTV-Myc mammary tumor subgroups exhibits metastatic capacity and that the signature derived from the subgroup can predict metastatic potential of human breast cancer. Together, these data reveal that a combination of histological and genomic analyses can uncover substantial heterogeneity in mammary tumor formation and therefore highlight aspects of tumor phenotype not evident in the population as a whole.

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