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Biol Trace Elem Res. 1997 Jan;56(1):131-42.

Possibilities of a viral etiology for human breast cancer. A review.

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Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, CUNY, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Previous studies related mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) to human breast cancer. However, the presence of human endogenous retroviruses (HERs) confounded these results. We selected a 660-bp sequence of the MMTV env gene with low homology to HER (or any other known gene) and searched for a sequence homologous to it, using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The 660-bp sequence was detected in 131 (39%) of 335 unselected breast cancers, in 2 (6.9%) of 29 fibroadenomas, and in 2 (1.65%) of 121 normal breast specimens. The sequence was not present in normal tissues, or in other human cancers or cell lines. Cloning and sequencing of the 660-bp sequence revealed that it is 95-98% homologous to MMTV env gene, but not the known HERs or other viral or human gene. Southern blot hybridization using labeled cloned sequences demonstrated that the 660-bp sequence was present in very low copy number as a 6-8 kb EcoRI fragment only in breast cancer samples and in some of the human breast cancer cell lines that were positive by PCR. Preliminary experiments using reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR indicated that expression of the 660-bp sequence can be detected in 65% of the positive tumors. We were also able to identify in breast cancer DNA a segment of 1.6 kb comprising LTR and env gene sequences, which are homologous to MMTV, but not to the HERs. The origin of the MMTV-like sequences in tumor DNA could be the result of integrated MMTV-like sequences derived from a human mammary virus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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