Introduction: Genomic variability limits the efficacy of breast cancer therapy. To simplify the study of the molecular complexity of breast cancer, researchers have used mouse mammary tumor models. However, the degree to which mouse models model human breast cancer and are reflective of the human heterogeneity has yet to be demonstrated with gene expression studies on a large scale.
Methods: To this end, we have built a database consisting of 1,172 mouse mammary tumor samples from 26 different major oncogenic mouse mammary tumor models.
Results: In this dataset we identified heterogeneity within mouse models and noted a surprising amount of interrelatedness between models, despite differences in the tumor initiating oncogene. Making comparisons between models, we identified differentially expressed genes with alteration correlating with initiating events in each model. Using annotation tools, we identified transcription factors with a high likelihood of activity within these models. Gene signatures predicted activation of major cell signaling pathways in each model, predictions that correlated with previous genetic studies. Finally, we noted relationships between mouse models and human breast cancer at both the level of gene expression and predicted signal pathway activity. Importantly, we identified individual mouse models that recapitulate human breast cancer heterogeneity at the level of gene expression.
Conclusions: This work underscores the importance of fully characterizing mouse tumor biology at molecular, histological and genomic levels before a valid comparison to human breast cancer may be drawn and provides an important bioinformatic resource.