Oncogenic and tumor-suppressive mouse models for breast cancer engaging HER2/neu

Int J Cancer. 2017 Feb 1;140(3):495-503. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30399. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


The human c-ErbB2 (HER2) gene is amplified in ∼20% of human breast cancers (BCs), but the protein is overexpressed in ∼30% of the cases indicating that multiple different mechanisms contribute to HER2 overexpression in tumors. It has long been used as a molecular marker of BC for subcategorization for the prediction of prognosis and determination of therapeutic strategies. In comparison to ER(+) BCs, HER2-positive BCs are more invasive, but the patients respond to monoclonal antibody therapy with trastuzumab or tyrosine kinase inhibitors at least at early stages. To understand the pathophysiology of HER2-driven carcinogenesis and test HER2-targeting therapeutic agents in vivo, numerous mouse models have been created that faithfully reproduce HER2(+) BCs in mice. They include MMTV-neu (active mutant or wild type, rat neu or HER2) models, neu promoter-driven neuNT-transgenic mice, neuNT-knock-in mice at the neu locus and doxycycline-inducible neuNT-transgenic models. HER2/neu activates the Phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase-AKT-NF-κB pathway to stimulate the mitogenic cyclin D1/Cdk4-Rb-E2F pathway. Of note, overexpression of HER2 also stimulates the cell autonomous Dmp1-Arf-p53 tumor suppressor pathway to quench oncogenic signals to prevent the emergence of cancer cells. Hence tumor development by MMTV-neu mice was dramatically accelerated in mice that lack Dmp1, Arf or p53 with invasion and metastasis. Expressions of neuNT under the endogenous promoter underwent gene amplification, closely recapitulating human HER2(+) BCs. MMTV-HER2 models have been shown to be useful to test humanized monoclonal antibodies to HER2. These mouse models will be useful for the screening of novel therapeutic agents against BCs with HER2 overexpression.

Keywords: Dmp1; Dmtf1; HER2/neu; PI3K; breast cancer; disease model; p53; prevention; target therapy; transgenic mice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic / genetics
  • Oncogenes / genetics*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*


  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Receptor, ErbB-2