Effects of letrozole on breast cancer micro-metastatic tumor growth in bone and lung in mice inoculated with murine 4T1 cells

Wendan Wang, Aashvini Belosay, Xujuan Yang, James A. Hartman, Huaxin Song, Urszula T. Iwaniec, Russell T. Turner, Mona I. Churchwell, Daniel R. Doerge, William G. Helferich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Breast cancer (BC) is the leading cancer in women worldwide. Metastasis occurs in stage IV BC with bone and lung being common metastatic sites. Here we evaluate the effects of the aromatase inhibitor letrozole on BC micro-metastatic tumor growth in bone and lung metastasis in intact and ovariectomized (OVX) mice with murine estrogen receptor negative (ER−) BC cells inoculated in tibia. Forty-eight BALB/c mice were randomly assigned to one of four groups: OVX, OVX + Letrozole, Intact, and Intact + Letrozole, and injected with 4T1 cells intra-tibially. Letrozole was subcutaneously injected daily for 23 days at a dose of 1.75 µg/g body weight. Tumor progression was monitored by bioluminescence imaging (BLI). Following necropsy, inoculated tibiae were scanned via µCT and bone response to tumor was scored from 0 (no ectopic mineralization/osteolysis) to 5 (extensive ectopic mineralization/osteolysis). OVX mice had higher tibial pathology scores indicative of more extensive bone destruction than intact mice, irrespective of letrozole treatment. Letrozole decreased serum estradiol levels and reduced lung surface tumor numbers in intact animals. Furthermore, mice receiving letrozole had significantly fewer tumor colonies and fewer proliferative cells in the lung than OVX and intact controls based on H&E and Ki-67 staining, respectively. In conclusion, BC-inoculated OVX animals had higher tibia pathology scores than BC-inoculated intact animals and letrozole reduced BC metastases to lungs. These findings suggest that, by lowering systemic estrogen level and/or by interacting with the host organ, the aromatase inhibitor letrozole has the potential to reduce ER− BC metastasis to lung.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-485
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Metastasis
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Aromatase inhibitor letrozole
  • Bioluminescence imaging
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung metastases
  • Micro-metastatic bone tumor
  • Ovariectomy
  • µCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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