To create this improved model for breast cancer studies, the researchers grafted tumour tissue from consenting breast cancer patients directly into mouse mammary glands, rather than the traditional approach, where the cancer cells are grown, or cultured, in the laboratory. They discovered that the grafts remained virtually identical to the original human breast cancer in structure, genetic makeup and behaviour, unlike the methods that rely on cell cultures.
"The most surprising result was that the tumour grafts spread from the original site, or metastasized, just as they did in the human patients," said the study's principal investigator Professor Alana Welm HCI. "For example, grafts of tumour tissue from patients whose cancer had spread to the lung also spread to the lungs of the mice that received them."
Most breast cancer deaths result from the disease spreading to other areas of the body such as the lymphatic system, lungs, liver, bones or brain.
In addition, researchers found that the successful grafts were nearly all from patients who developed the most aggressive forms of breast cancer and ultimately died of their disease. This result reveals the modelling method's potential as a tool that, soon after a breast cancer diagnosis, could identify whether the tumour would be likely to spread, helping doctors select the best treatment approach for an individual patient's form of the disease.
"There is also the potential to develop similar models for other cancers using this method," says Welm. "We are already working on this with colon cancer tissues."
MEDICA.de; Source: Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI)