Breast cancer - one term, many entities?

J Clin Invest. 2011 Oct;121(10):3789-96. doi: 10.1172/JCI57100. Epub 2011 Oct 3.


Breast cancer, rather than constituting a monolithic entity, comprises heterogeneous tumors with different clinical characteristics, disease courses, and responses to specific treatments. Tumor-intrinsic features, including classical histological and immunopathological classifications as well as more recently described molecular subtypes, separate breast tumors into multiple groups. Tumor-extrinsic features, including microenvironmental configuration, also have prognostic significance and further expand the list of tumor-defining variables. A better understanding of the features underlying heterogeneity, as well as of the mechanisms and consequences of their interactions, is essential to improve targeting of existing therapies and to develop novel agents addressing specific combinations of features.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2