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Ultrastruct Pathol. 2007 Jul-Aug;31(4):263-71.

Surface topography and ultrastructural changes of mucinous carcinoma breast cells.

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Department of Electron Microscopy-Cell Biology, G. Papanikolaou Research Center of Oncology and Experimental Surgery, Saint Savas Anticancer Hospital, Athens, Greece.


Mucinous carcinoma of the breast (MCB) is histologically classified into 2 groups: (1) pure MCB and (2) mixed MCB. Pure MCB carries a better diagnosis than mixed MCB. This research relates to the cell surface topography and ultrastructure of the cells in the above cases and aims to find the differences between them, by means of two methods: scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). For the SEM examination, it was necessary to initially culture the MCB tissues and then proceed with the usual SEM method. In contrast, for the TEM technique, MCB tissues were initially fixed followed by the classic TEM method. The authors found the topography of pure MCB cases to be without nodes. The cell membrane was smooth, with numerous pores and small ruffles that covered the entire cell. The ultrastructural appearance of the same cases was with a normal cell membrane containing abundant collagen fibers. They also had many small vesicles containing mucin as well as secretory droplets. In contrast the mixed MCB had a number of lymph nodes and their cell surface topography showed stronger changes such as microvilli, numerous blebs, ruffles and many long projections. Their ultrastructure showed very long microvilli with large cytoplasmic inclusions and extracellular mucin collections, electron-dense material vacuoles, and many important cytoplasmic organelles. An important fact is that mixed MCB also contains areas of infiltrating ductal carcinoma. These cells of the cytoplasmic organelles are clearly responsible for the synthesis, storage, and secretion of the characteristic mucin of this tumor type. Evidently, this abnormal mucin production and the abundance of secretory granules along with the long projections observed in the topographical structure might be responsible for transferring tumor cells to neighboring organs, thus being responsible for metastatic disease.

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