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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e55145. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055145. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

Multiple breast cancer cell-lines derived from a single tumor differ in their molecular characteristics and tumorigenic potential.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States of America.



Breast cancer cell lines are widely used tools to investigate breast cancer biology and to develop new therapies. Breast cancer tissue contains molecularly heterogeneous cell populations. Thus, it is important to understand which cell lines best represent the primary tumor and have similarly diverse phenotype. Here, we describe the development of five breast cancer cell lines from a single patient's breast cancer tissue. We characterize the molecular profiles, tumorigenicity and metastatic ability in vivo of all five cell lines and compare their responsiveness to 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT) treatment.


Five breast cancer cell lines were derived from a single patient's primary breast cancer tissue. Expression of different antigens including HER2, estrogen receptor (ER), CK8/18, CD44 and CD24 was determined by flow cytometry, western blotting and immunohistochemistry (IHC). In addition, a Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH) assay for HER2 gene amplification and p53 genotyping was performed on all cell lines. A xenograft model in nude mice was utilized to assess the tumorigenic and metastatic abilities of the breast cancer cells.


We have isolated, cloned and established five new breast cancer cell lines with different tumorigenicity and metastatic abilities from a single primary breast cancer. Although all the cell lines expressed low levels of ER, their growth was estrogen-independent and all had high-levels of expression of mutated non-functional p53. The HER2 gene was rearranged in all cell lines. Low doses of 4-OHT induced proliferation of these breast cancer cell lines.


All five breast cancer cell lines have different antigenic expression profiles, tumorigenicity and organ specific metastatic abilities although they derive from a single tumor. None of the studied markers correlated with tumorigenic potential. These new cell lines could serve as a model for detailed genomic and proteomic analyses to identify mechanisms of organ-specific metastasis of breast cancer.

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