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Tumor grafts derived from women with breast cancer authentically reflect tumor pathology, growth, metastasis and disease outcomes

Nature Medicine volume 17, pages 15141520 (2011) | Download Citation


Development and preclinical testing of new cancer therapies is limited by the scarcity of in vivo models that authentically reproduce tumor growth and metastatic progression. We report new models for breast tumor growth and metastasis in the form of transplantable tumors derived directly from individuals undergoing treatment for breast cancer. These tumor grafts illustrate the diversity of human breast cancer and maintain essential features of the original tumors, including metastasis to specific sites. Co-engraftment of primary human mesenchymal stem cells maintains phenotypic stability of the grafts and increases tumor growth by promoting angiogenesis. We also report that tumor engraftment is a prognostic indicator of disease outcome for women with newly diagnosed breast cancer; orthotopic breast tumor grafting is a step toward individualized models for tumor growth, metastasis and prognosis. This bank of tumor grafts also serves as a publicly available resource for new models in which to study the biology of breast cancer.

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We are grateful to the individuals who donated tissue toward this endeavor and the Associated Regional and University Pathologists Research Institute staff for performing the clinical stains. This work was supported by funding from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (to A.L.W.; BC075015), the American Association for Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Research Foundation (to A.L.W.; 07−60−26−WELM) and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. We also used the Huntsman Cancer Institute Tissue Resource and Application Core and Comparative Oncology Core facilities, which is supported in part by P30 CA042014 (to the Huntsman Cancer Institute).

Author information


  1. Department of Oncological Sciences, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Yoko S DeRose
    • , Guoying Wang
    • , Yi-Chun Lin
    • , Bryan E Welm
    •  & Alana L Welm
  2. Department of Pathology, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Philip S Bernard
    • , Rachel Factor
    •  & Inge J Stijleman
  3. The Associated Regional and University Pathologists Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Philip S Bernard
    •  & Mark T W Ebbert
  4. Department of Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology Division, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Saundra S Buys
  5. Department of Surgery, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Cindy Matsen
    • , Edward Nelson
    • , Leigh Neumayer
    •  & Bryan E Welm
  6. Bioinformatics Core Facility, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • Brett A Milash
  7. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

    • R Lor Randall


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Y.S.D., G.W., Y.-C.L., M.T.W.E., C.M. and I.J.S. performed the experiments. S.S.B., E.N., L.N. and R.L.R. provided tissues. Y.S.D., G.W., P.S.B., R.F., B.A.M., B.E.W. and A.L.W. analyzed the data. A.L.W. wrote the paper, and B.E.W. and P.S.B. edited the paper. A.L.W. supervised the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alana L Welm.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Results and Discussion, Supplementary Tables 2 and 3 and Supplementary Figures 1–32.

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    Supplementary Table 1

    Detailed patient, tumor and tumor graft information.

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    Supplementary Table 4

    Expression data from preclustered intrinsic gene set.

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