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Cancer Res. 1990 Feb 1;50(3):717-21.

Tumorigenicity and metastasis of human breast carcinoma cell lines in nude mice.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


There are few reports describing experimental models of the growth and metastasis of human breast carcinomas. This article discusses the tumorigenic and metastatic properties of two estrogen receptor-negative breast carcinomas injected into nude mice. Tumor growth in the mammary fatpad (m.f.p.) and the subcutis was compared in female nude mice. The injection of 10(5) viable cells of two human breast carcinoma cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-435) gave a 100% tumor take rate in the m.f.p., whereas only 40% of the s.c. injections produced tumors and these occurred several weeks after the appearance of the m.f.p. tumors. Thus, the m.f.p. of nude mice is a favorable site for the growth of human breast carcinomas. MDA-MB-435 tumors produced distant metastases in 80% to 100% of recipients. The most common sites for metastasis were the lymph nodes and lungs, with a lower incidence of metastases in muscle (chest wall and thigh), heart, and brain. New variant cell lines were isolated from metastases in the lungs, brain, and heart. All the cell lines were tumorigenic in the m.f.p., and the lung- and heart-derived metastasis lines produced slightly more lung metastases than the original cell line. However, the brain metastasis variant produced significantly fewer lung metastases. Intravenous inoculation of the spontaneous metastasis-derived cell lines produced few lung colonies. Only cell variants isolated from experimental lung metastases showed enhanced lung colonization potential when reinjected i.v. Our results suggest that the estrogen receptor-negative MDA-MB-435 cell line injected in the m.f.p. of nude mice could be a valuable tool for analysis of the cellular and molecular basis of the metastasis of advanced breast cancer.

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