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Xenograft tumours from an oestrogen-dependent human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 have been established and characterised in thymectomised, irradiated female CBA strain mice. There was evidence for selection in xenografts of a subpopulation of MCF-7 cells with an altered pattern of gene expression as measured by mRNA levels compared with the original cells in vitro. Tumorigenicity increased significantly on repeated animal passage but oestrogen dependence was retained. Following injection of the mice with oestrogen, mitosis was induced in the tumour cells with associated increases in thymidine uptake and percentage of cells in S-phase. In accord with these changes, c-myc and p53 expression were increased and TGF-beta was suppressed. Thereafter the expression of the c-myc and p53 genes fell whilst that of the TGF-beta gene was induced as the oestrogenic-stimulus declined. The oestrogen-regulated mRNA pS2 showed a biphasic response to oestrogen and levels declined as the serum oestrogen fell to undetectable levels. This xenograft system demonstrates that changes in transcription of oncogenes, growth factor and oestrogen-regulated genes can be detected in vivo in response to oestrogen. It thus provides an in vivo model for studies of the biochemical and molecular basis for therapeutic manipulation of hormone-sensitive human breast cancer.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





78 - 84


Animals, Blotting, Northern, Breast Neoplasms, Cell Division, DNA, DNA Probes, Estrogens, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Mice, Mice, Inbred CBA, Neoplasm Transplantation, Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent, Nucleic Acid Hybridization, RNA, Messenger, Rats, Receptors, Estrogen, Transplantation, Heterologous