Stem Cell ‘Daughters’ Lead To Breast Cancer

breast cancer stem cell

Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have discovered that a population of breast cells called luminal progenitor cells are likely to be responsible for breast cancers that develop in women carrying mutations in the gene BRCA1. Their finding represents a major shift in the way scientists think breast cancer develops.

A team led by Associate Professors Jane Visvader and Geoff Lindeman from the institute’s Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium Laboratory have discovered that luminal progenitor cells, also called the ‘daughters’ of breast stem cells, are very likely the source of basal-like breast tumors.

Dr Visvader said it had been thought in recent years that breast stem cells gave rise to BRCA1 tumors. “However, research carried out at the institute by Drs Elgene Lim and Fran├žois Vaillant has shown that breast tissue from women with BRCA1 mutations has unexpectedly high numbers of luminal progenitor cells,” she said.

“Further, our gene expression studies have revealed that BRCA1 breast tissue and basal breast tumors are more similar to normal luminal progenitor cells than any other cell type in the breast. This places the spotlight on errant luminal progenitors, rather than breast stem cells.”

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