Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and this prevalence has a major impact on health worldwide. Localized breast cancer has an excellent prognosis, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 85%. However, the survival rate drops to only 23% for women with distant metastases. To date, the study of breast cancer metastasis has been hampered by a lack of reliable metastatic models. Here we describe a novel in vivo model using human breast cancer xenografts in NOD scid gamma (NSG) mice; in this model human breast cancer cells reliably metastasize to distant organs from primary tumors grown within the mammary fat pad. This model enables the study of the entire metastatic process from the proper anatomical site, providing an important new approach to examine the mechanisms underlying breast cancer metastasis. We used this model to identify gene expression changes that occur at metastatic sites relative to the primary mammary fat pad tumor. By comparing multiple metastatic sites and independent cell lines, we have identified several gene expression changes that may be important for tumor growth at distant sites.
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