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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e71270. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071270. eCollection 2013.

Differential post-surgical metastasis and survival in SCID, NOD-SCID and NOD-SCID-IL-2Rγ(null) mice with parental and subline variants of human breast cancer: implications for host defense mechanisms regulating metastasis.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto and Biological Sciences Platform, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


We compare for the first time, the metastatic aggressiveness of the parental MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line and two luciferase-tagged in vivo-derived and selected pro-metastatic variants (LM2-4/luc⁺ and 164/8-1B/luc⁺ in SCID, NOD-SCID and NOD-SCID-IL-2Rγ(null) (NSG) mice following orthotopic implantation and primary tumour resection. The variants are known to be more aggressively metastatic in SCID mice, compared to the parental line which has limited spontaneous metastatic competence in these mice. When 2×10⁶ cells were injected into the mammary fat pad, the growth of the resultant primary tumours was identical for the various cell lines in the three strains of mice. However, metastatic spread of all three cell lines, including the MDA-MB-231 parental cell line, was strikingly more aggressive in the highly immunocompromised NSG mice compared to both NOD-SCID and SCID mice, resulting in extensive multi-organ metastases and a significant reduction in overall survival. While these studies were facilitated by monitoring post-surgical spontaneous metastases using whole body bioluminescence imaging, we observed that the luciferase-tagged parental line showed altered growth and diminished metastatic properties compared to its untagged counterpart. Our results are the first to show that host immunity can have a profound impact on the spread of spontaneous visceral metastases and survival following resection of a primary tumour in circumstances where the growth of primary tumours is not similarly affected; as such they highlight the importance of immunity in the metastatic process, and by extension, suggest certain therapeutic strategies that may have a significant impact on reducing metastasis.

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