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BACKGROUND: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and Notch signaling pathways have been implicated in self-renewal of normal breast stem cells. We investigated the involvement of these signaling pathways in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast. METHODS: Samples of normal breast tissue (n = 15), pure DCIS tissue of varying grades (n = 35), and DCIS tissue surrounding an invasive cancer (n = 7) were used for nonadherent (i.e., mammosphere) culture. Mammosphere cultures were treated at day 0 with gefitinib (an EGFR inhibitor), DAPT (N-[N-(3,5-difluorophenacetyl-L-alanyl)]-S-phenylglycine t-butyl ester) (a gamma-secretase inhibitor), or Notch 4-neutralizing antibody. Mammosphere-forming efficiency (MFE) was calculated by dividing the number of mammospheres of 60 microm or more formed by the number of single cells seeded and is expressed as a percentage. The Notch 1 intracellular domain (NICD) was detected immunohistochemically in paraffin-embedded DCIS tissue from 50 patients with at least 60 months of follow-up. All statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: DCIS had a greater MFE than normal breast tissue (1.5% versus 0.5%, difference = 1%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.62% to 1.25%, P<.001). High-grade DCIS had a greater MFE than low-grade DCIS (1.6% versus 1.09%, difference = 0.51%, 95% CI = 0.07% to 0.94%, P = .01). The MFE of high-grade DCIS treated with gefitinib in the absence of exogenous EGF was lower than that of high-grade DCIS treated with mammosphere medium lacking gefitinib and exogenous EGF (0.56% versus 1.36%, difference 0.8%, 95% CI = 0.33% to 1.4%, P = .004). Increased Notch signaling as detected by NICD staining was associated with recurrence at 5 years (P = .012). DCIS MFE was reduced when Notch signaling was inhibited using either DAPT (0.89% versus 0.51%, difference = 0.38%, 95% CI = 0.2% to 0.6%, P<.001) or a Notch 4-neutralizing antibody (0.97% versus 0.2%, difference = 0.77%, 95% CI = 0.52% to 1.0%, P<.001). CONCLUSION: We describe a novel primary culture technique for DCIS. Inhibition of the EGFR or Notch signaling pathways reduced DCIS MFE.

Original publication




Journal article


J natl cancer inst

Publication Date





616 - 627


Breast, Breast Neoplasms, Carcinoma in Situ, Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating, Cell Adhesion, Cell Culture Techniques, ErbB Receptors, Female, Humans, Neoplasm Invasiveness, Receptors, Notch, Recurrence, Tumor Cells, Cultured