Isolation and in vitro propagation of tumorigenic breast cancer cells with stem/progenitor cell properties

Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 1;65(13):5506-11. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-05-0626.


Breast cancer-initiating cells have been recently identified in breast carcinoma as CD44+/CD24(-/low) cells, which exclusively retain tumorigenic activity and display stem cell-like properties. However, at present, direct evidence that breast cancer-initiating cells can be propagated in vitro is still lacking. We report here the isolation and in vitro propagation of breast cancer-initiating cells from three breast cancer lesions and from an established breast carcinoma cell line. Our breast carcinoma-derived cultures encompassed undifferentiated cells capable of self-renewal, extensive proliferation as clonal nonadherent spherical clusters, and differentiation along different mammary epithelial lineages (ductal and myoepithelial). Interestingly, cultured cells were CD44+/CD24- and Cx43-, overexpressed neoangiogenic and cytoprotective factors, expressed the putative stem cell marker Oct-4, and gave rise to new tumors when as few as 10(3) cells were injected into the mammary fat pad of SCID mice. Long-term cultures of breast tumorigenic cells with stem/progenitor cell properties represent a suitable in vitro model to study breast cancer-initiating cells and to develop therapeutic strategies aimed at eradicating the tumorigenic subpopulation within breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • CD24 Antigen
  • Cell Growth Processes / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Stem Cells / immunology
  • Stem Cells / pathology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD24 Antigen
  • CD24 protein, human
  • Cd24a protein, mouse
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Membrane Glycoproteins