The process of malignant progression in human breast cancer

R. Clarke, R. B. Dickson, N. Brünner

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67 Scopus citations


Malignant progression in breast cancer represents the processes through which localized, hormone-dependent tumor cells become resistant to endocrine manipulations and metastasize to sites distant from the primary tumor. By selection in ovariectomized athymic nude mice, we have isolated a variant (MIII) of the hormone-dependent, poorly invasive, human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. MIII cells have lost their absolute requirement for estrogen to form proliferating tumors in nude mice. Furthermore, these tumors are significantly more invasive than the parental MCF-7 cell line. MIII cells retain some responsivity to estrogens and antiestrogens, indicating that they have progressed to a hormone-independent but hormone-esponsive phenotype. In an attempt to determine the nature of this process, we have compared the phenotype of MIII cells with that of other MCF-7 variants. These comparisons strongly suggest that the factors contributing to perturbations in antiestrogen sensitivity, hormone-dependent growth, metastatic potential and tumorigenicity are essentially independent of each other and acquired in a random manner. Loss of estrogen receptor expression and overexpression of EGF receptors tend to occur later in the process of malignant progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-407
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Hormone dependence
  • Malignant progression


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