Progression of human breast cancer cells from hormone-dependent to hormone-independent growth both in vitro and in vivo

R. Clarke, N. Brunner, B. S. Katzenellenbogen, E. W. Thompson, M. J. Norman, C. Koppi, S. Paik, M. E. Lippman, R. B. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have isolated a series of sublines of the hormone-dependent MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line after selection both in vivo and in vitro for growth in the presence of subphysiological concentrations of estrogens. These sublines represent a model system for study of the processes leading to hormonal autonomy. The cells form growing tumors in ovariectomized athymic nude mice in the absence of estrogen supplementation but retain some responsivity to estrogen as determined by stimulation of the rate of tumor growth in vivo and by induction of progesterone receptor. An ovarian-independent but hormone-responsive phenotype may occur early in the natural progression to hormone-independent and unresponsive growth in breast cancer. We observed no change in the affinity or decrease in the level of expression of estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors among the sublines and the parental cells. Epidermal growth factor receptors are not overexpressed in ovarian-independent cells. Thus, altered hormone receptor expression may be a late event in the acquisition of a hormone-independent and unresponsive phenotype. Sublines isolated by in vivo but not in vitro selection are more invasive than the parental cells both in vivo and across an artificial basement membrane in vitro. Thus, as yet unknown tumor-host interactions may be important in the development of an invasive phenotype. Furthermore, acquisition of the ovarian-independent and invasive phenotypes can occur independently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3649-3653
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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