Cells originating from normal human breast tissue have been converted into breast cancer cells by a defined protocol of genetic changes. In the January 1 issue of Genes & Development, Dr. Robert Weinberg and colleagues from MIT report that the sequential introduction of three cancer-associated genes into human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) renders these cells tumorigenic. This study is the first report of the successful transformation of epithelial cells originating from a differentiated adult tissue such as the mammary gland. Cancers arising from epithelial cells account for the majority of naturally occurring malignancies, and breast cancer in particular is one of the leading causes of cancer related deaths in the United States. Thus far, the genetic complexity of breast cancer cells has made it difficult to identify the specific genetic alterations that are required for the switch from a normal cell to a tumor cell. Identification of the minimal genetic requirements of tumorigenesis will help to understand the mechanisms underlying the uncontrolled and destructive growth behavior of cancer.
The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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