Local regulation of human breast xenograft models

J Cell Physiol. 2010 Sep;224(3):795-806. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22190.


Breast cancer studies implant human cancer cells under the renal capsule, subcutaneously, or orthotopically and often use estrogen supplementation and immune suppressants (etoposide) in xenograft mouse models. However, cell behavior is significantly impacted by signals from the local microenvironment. Therefore, we investigated how the combinatorial effect of the location of injection and procedural differences affected xenograft characteristics. Patient-derived breast cancer cells were injected into mouse abdominal or thoracic mammary glands +/- estrogen and/or etoposide pretreatment. Abdominal xenografts had increased tumor incidence and volume, and decreased latency (P < 0.001) compared to thoracic tumors. No statistically significant difference in tumor volume was found in abdominal xenografts treated +/- estrogen or etoposide; however, etoposide suppressed tumor volume in thoracic xenografts (P < 0.02). The combination of estrogen and etoposide significantly decreased tumor incidence in both sites. In addition, mice treated +/- estradiol were injected orthotopically or subcutaneously with well-characterized breast cancer cell lines (MCF7, ZR75-1, MDA MB-231, or MCF10Ca1h). Orthotopic injection increased tumor volume; growth varied with estrogen supplementation. Location also altered methylation status of several breast cancer-related gene promoters. Lastly, vascularization of orthotopic tumors was significantly enhanced compared to subcutaneous tumors. These data suggest that optimal xenograft success occurs with orthotopic abdominal injections and illustrate molecular details of the compelling influence of the local microenvironment on in vivo models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / physiopathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Etoposide / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / genetics
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Transplantation, Heterologous*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Etoposide