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Carcinogenesis. 2002 Jun;23(6):977-82.

The growth hormone-deficient Spontaneous Dwarf rat is resistant to chemically induced mammary carcinogenesis.

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Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Recent epidemiologic studies have suggested that the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor I axis plays an important role in human breast cancer. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the function of GH in rat mammary carcinogenesis, a model that closely recapitulates human breast cancer biology. The Spontaneous Dwarf rat (SDR) arose from the Sprague-Dawley rat and harbors a mutation in its GH gene yielding undetectable levels of a severely truncated protein not capable of binding to the GH receptor. When female rats of either strain were exposed to the direct-acting carcinogen N-methyl-N-nitrosourea, all wild-type rats (n = 10) developed multiple mammary cancers (5.3/rat). In contrast, SDR rats (n = 15) developed only three cancers (0.2/rat) and these were very small (<6 mm3). In another experiment, SDRs were backcrossed with wild-type Sprague-Dawley rats and the progeny were exposed to the indirect-acting carcinogen 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene. Progeny that were either homo- or heterozygous for the wild-type GH gene developed approximately 4 mammary tumors/rat, respectively. In contrast, SDR progeny developed only 0.21 tumors/rat. Mammary glands of SDRs had substantially less alveolar development compared with wild-type, yet ductal branching was similar in the two strains. Infusion of rat GH to SDRs induced mammary epithelial cell proliferation and alveolar development similar to that of wild-type rats. Taken together, these results demonstrate an important role for GH in alveolar development in the virgin rat, and provide the first direct evidence that GH plays a critical role in mammary carcinogenesis.

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