Fresh surgical specimens yield breast stem/progenitor cells and reveal their oncogenic abnormalities

Suellen J. Pommier, Ariel Hernandez, Esther Han, Kristen Massimino, Patrick Muller, Brian Diggs, Erin Chamberlain, Jennifer Murphy, Juliana Hansen, Arpana Naik, John Vetto, Rodney F. Pommier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: The process by which breast cancer stem cells arise is unknown. It may be that the benign stem cells in breast tissue are transformed into malignant stem cells through the acquisition of genetic abnormalities. In this study, we collected and compared benign and malignant breast stem/progenitor cells to determine whether specific genetic abnormalities occur in breast cancer stem/progenitor cells within the human body. Methods: Fresh surgical specimens from benign and malignant breast tissues were obtained directly from the operating room and examined. Cells variably expressing stem cell-associated surface markers CD49f and CD24 were collected by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The frequencies of these cells in benign and malignant breast tissues were ascertained. Oncogenetic mutation analyses were performed and expression of stem cell-associated genes was measured. Results: The frequencies of stem/progenitor cells were similar between benign and malignant tissues. Stem cell-associated gene expression also was similar between benign and malignant stem cells. Genetic mutations in the PIK/AKT pathway were found in 73% of the tumors' stem cells, specifically within two subpopulations. No mutations were found in stem/progenitor cell subpopulations from benign breast tissue. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that, following malignant transformation, breast cancer stem/progenitor cells retain their stem cell functions and relative frequencies. In addition, they develop malignant capabilities by acquiring mutations in genes critical for maintaining normal cellular metabolism and proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-535
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of surgical oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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