Database tags mice that best mimic breast cancer

"We found that the vast majority of human breast cancers can be represented by one of the strains we studied," says Eran Andrechek. "But these models have to be chosen very carefully." Above, a mouse tumor related to breast cancer. (Credit: G.L. Kohuth)

A new database shows which strains of mice are best for studying different types of breast cancer in people, researchers say.

Scientists have routinely used mice to replicate aspects of human breast cancer in an effort to find a cure to the most common type of cancer among women. But until now, were not sure how effective the models were in actually mimicking the disease.

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For a new study researchers used all the available data to analyze 1,172 mouse mammary tumor samples from 26 different preclinical models. They then compiled one of the largest databases to show which strains of mice are best suited to study a particular type of human breast cancer.

“We found that the vast majority of human breast cancers can be represented by one of the strains we studied,” says Eran Andrechek, professor of physiology at Michigan State University. “But these models have to be chosen very carefully.”

Not all models do the same thing

Careful consideration is important because not all models can replicate the same diversities found in breast cancer. One strain may show likenesses in the appearance of tumors, while others may have similarities in genes that are turned on. Yet none of the models may be effective in demonstrating the way the cancer signals to other cells that tell the disease to grow.

Published in Breast Cancer Research, the study highlights the ways these models should be used to study the disease. The new database could prove to be a valuable resource to researchers around the world.

“There are definitely clear parallels between mice and men in relation to breast cancer and this study provides legitimacy to using these models so ultimately a cure can be found,” Andrechek says.

The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and Susan G. Komen Foundation funded the study.

Source: Michigan State University