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Clin Exp Metastasis. 1999;17(6):537-44.

Characterization of spontaneous metastasis in an aggressive breast carcinoma model using flow cytometry.

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Searle Discovery Research, Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri 63198, USA.


Studies of metastasis can be accelerated and provide more mechanistic information using cell lines which reproducibly and aggressively metastasize, and which are accurately and easily detected in tissues at all stages of the metastatic process. Although reporter proteins such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) and beta-galactosidase have improved the tracking of tumor cells in vivo, their measurement has often been limited to visual observation and manual counting. In this study, we exploited the highly sensitive and objective quantitation provided by flow cytometry to characterize, in detail, the sequence of events associated with orthotopic metastasis in a highly aggressive mouse model. Following stable transfection of the MDA-MB-435 breast carcinoma cell line with GFP, we utilized an in vivo selection process to isolate a variant exhibiting increased primary tumor growth and metastasis. As few as one fluorescent tumor cell per 200,000 host cells could be accurately detected in dissociated tissues by flow cytometry, allowing us to demonstrate that metastatic cells migrate to the lungs of SCID mice very early after orthotopic implantation. Tumor burden in lungs increased in a smooth continuous manner, until death approximately eight weeks later. Levels of circulating tumor cells in blood were also detectable at an early timepoint, but remained relatively low throughout the course of secondary tumor development in the lungs. Surgical removal of the primary tumor at various times after inoculation significantly affected lung tumor burden, supporting the concept that circulating tumor cells in blood inefficiently initiate distal metastases. Furthermore, the continuing contribution to metastasis by the primary tumor was independent of tumor mass. The combined characteristics of enhanced orthotopic metastasis and quantitative detection in blood and tissues will make this a useful new model for the characterization of the multi-stage progression of cancer, and the preclinical evaluation of anti-neoplastic therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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