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An imbalance in progenitor cell populations reflects tumour progression in breast cancer primary culture models

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Author(s): Donatello Simona | Hudson Lance | Cottell David | Blanco Alfonso | Aurrekoetxea Igor | Shelly Martin | Dervan Peter | Kell Malcolm | Stokes Maurice | Hill Arnold | Hopkins Ann

Journal: Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research
ISSN 1756-9966

Volume: 30;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 45;
Date: 2011;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Many factors influence breast cancer progression, including the ability of progenitor cells to sustain or increase net tumour cell numbers. Our aim was to define whether alterations in putative progenitor populations could predict clinicopathological factors of prognostic importance for cancer progression. Methods Primary cultures were established from human breast tumour and adjacent non-tumour tissue. Putative progenitor cell populations were isolated based on co-expression or concomitant absence of the epithelial and myoepithelial markers EPCAM and CALLA respectively. Results Significant reductions in cellular senescence were observed in tumour versus non-tumour cultures, accompanied by a stepwise increase in proliferation:senescence ratios. A novel correlation between tumour aggressiveness and an imbalance of putative progenitor subpopulations was also observed. Specifically, an increased double-negative (DN) to double-positive (DP) ratio distinguished aggressive tumours of high grade, estrogen receptor-negativity or HER2-positivity. The DN:DP ratio was also higher in malignant MDA-MB-231 cells relative to non-tumourogenic MCF-10A cells. Ultrastructural analysis of the DN subpopulation in an invasive tumour culture revealed enrichment in lipofuscin bodies, markers of ageing or senescent cells. Conclusions Our results suggest that an imbalance in tumour progenitor subpopulations imbalances the functional relationship between proliferation and senescence, creating a microenvironment favouring tumour progression.
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