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      Can Modulation of Mammary Gland Development by Dietary Factors Support Breast Cancer Prevention?

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          Breast cancer continues to be a major challenge for public health, since it is the most common cancer of women in the Western world, and its prevalence is still increasing. In order to achieve better results in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer it is crucial to identify the mechanisms behind its initiation, i.e. the changes and deviations that have occurred in the mammary gland growth. It has long been known that a woman’s reproductive history is the strongest breast cancer risk factor if genetic background and age are excluded. The reproductive hormones, and the timing of events leading to changes in these hormones, and consequently, in the mammary gland, are the most important players. However, it has become obvious that dietary components may also contribute to breast cancer risk through their effects on the mammary gland. The past few years have added important information to our knowledge of the mechanisms behind breast cancer initiation at the level of target cells (mammary stem cells) and gene expression (genetic ‘fingerprint’ associated with persistent pregnancy-induced protection against breast cancer), as well as of the effects of certain dietary factors (steroid action modulators). These results and their links to breast cancer initiation and progression will be discussed.

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          Most cited references 51

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          Cloning of a novel receptor expressed in rat prostate and ovary.

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            Reconstruction of functionally normal and malignant human breast tissues in mice.

            The study of normal breast epithelial morphogenesis and carcinogenesis in vivo has largely used rodent models. Efforts at studying mammary morphogenesis and cancer with xenotransplanted human epithelial cells have failed to recapitulate the full extent of development seen in the human breast. We have developed an orthotopic xenograft model in which both the stromal and epithelial components of the reconstructed mammary gland are of human origin. Genetic modification of human stromal cells before the implantation of ostensibly normal human mammary epithelial cells resulted in the outgrowth of benign and malignant lesions. This experimental model allows for studies of human epithelial morphogenesis and differentiation in vivo and underscores the critical role of heterotypic interactions in human breast development and carcinogenesis.
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              Paracrine signaling through the epithelial estrogen receptor alpha is required for proliferation and morphogenesis in the mammary gland.

              Estradiol is a major regulator of postnatal mammary gland development and thought to exert its effects through estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) expressed in the mammary gland stroma and epithelium. Previous studies, however, were confounded by the use of an ERalpha mutant strain that retains some of the protein with transactivation activity. Here, we use an ERalpha-/- mouse strain in which no ERalpha transcript can be detected to analyze mammary gland development in the complete absence of ERalpha signaling. The ERalpha-/- females show no development beyond a rudimentary ductal system. By grafting ERalpha-/- epithelium or stroma in combination with ERalpha WT stroma or epithelium, we show that the primary target for estradiol is the mammary epithelium, whereas a direct response of the mammary stroma is not required for mammary gland development to proceed normally. Mammary glands reconstituted with ERalpha-/- mammary epithelium exposed to pregnancy hormones show increased transcription of milk protein genes, indicating that ERalpha signaling is not an absolute requirement for a transcriptional response to pregnancy hormones. When ERalpha-/- mammary epithelial cells are in close vicinity to ERalpha WT cells, they proliferate and contribute to all aspects of mammary gland development, indicating that estradiol, like progesterone, orchestrates proliferation and morphogenesis by a paracrine mechanism, affecting nearby cells in the mammary epithelium.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                October 2007
                14 May 2007
                : 68
                : 5
                : 248-260
                Functional Foods Forum and Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry (S.I.M.), University of Turku, Turku, Finland
                102869 Horm Res 2007;68:248–260
                © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Figures: 2, Tables: 2, References: 100, Pages: 13
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