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Annu Rev Pathol. 2010;5:193-221. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pathol.4.110807.092306.

Preinvasive breast cancer.

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Department of Pathology, Molecular Pathology Research Unit, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


Preinvasive breast cancer accounts for approximately one-third of all newly diagnosed breast cancer cases in the United States and constitutes a spectrum of neoplastic lesions with varying degrees of differentiation and clinical behavior. High-throughput genetic, epigenetic, and gene-expression analyses have enhanced our understanding of the relationship of these early neoplastic lesions to normal breast tissue, and they strongly suggest that preinvasive breast cancer develops and evolves along two distinct molecular genetic and biological pathways that correlate with tumor grade. Although unique epigenetic and gene-expression changes are not observed in the tumor epithelial compartment during the transition from preinvasive to invasive disease, distinct molecular alterations are observed in the tumor-stromal and myoepithelial cells. This suggests that the stromal and myoepithelial microenvironment of preinvasive breast cancer actively participates in the transition from preinvasive to invasive disease. An improved understanding of the transition from preinvasive to invasive breast cancer will pave the way for novel preventative and therapeutic strategies.

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