Modeling of response to endocrine therapy in a panel of human luminal breast cancer xenografts

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Jun;133(2):595-606. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1815-5. Epub 2011 Oct 16.


Resistance to endocrine therapy is a major complication of luminal breast cancer and studies of the biological features of hormonal resistance are limited by the lack of adequate preclinical models. The aim of this study is to establish and characterize a panel of primary human luminal breast carcinoma xenografts, and to evaluate their response to endocrine therapies. Four hundred and twenty-three tumor fragments obtained directly from patients have been grafted in the interscapular fatpad of Swiss nude mice. After stable engraftment with estradiol supplementation, xenografted tumors have been validated by conventional pathology and immunohistochemistry examination, and additional molecular studies. In vivo tumor growth and response to different endocrine treatments were evaluated. We have engrafted 423 tumors including 314 ER+ tumors, and 8 new luminal breast cancer xenografts have been obtained (2.5%). Tumor take was much lower for luminal tumors than for non-luminal tumors (2.5 vs. 24.7%, P < 0.0001), and was associated with two independent criteria, i.e., ER status (P < 0.0001) and a high grade tumor (P = 0.05). Histological and immunohistochemical analyses performed on patient's tumors and xenografts showed striking similarities in the tumor morphology as well as in the expression level of ER, PR, and HER2. Response to hormone therapy, evaluated in 6 luminal models, showed different sensitivities, thus exhibiting heterogeneity similar to what is observed in the clinic. We have established a panel of primary human luminal breast cancer xenografts, recapitulating the biological and clinical behaviors of patient tumors, and therefore suitable for further preclinical experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Burden
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Receptor, ErbB-2