A novel and cost-effective ex vivo orthotopic model for the study of human breast cancer in mouse mammary gland organ culture

Akash Gupta, Geetanjali Gupta, Rajeshwari R. Mehta, David Z. Ivancic, Rashidra R. Walker, Jankiben R. Patel, Karen M. Gallegos, A. Michael Davidson, Seema A. Khan, Rajendra G. Mehta, Syreeta L. Tilghman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Mouse mammary organ culture (MMOC) is used to evaluate the efficacy of chemopreventive agents against the development of carcinogen-induced preneoplastic lesions and is highly correlative to in vivo carcinogenesis models. Here, we developed a new ex vivo MMOCmodel, by introducing human breast cancer cells into themouse mammary gland. This novel model, termed human breast cancer in MMOC (BCa-MMOC), mimics in vivo orthotopic breast cancer mouse models. To develop this model, estradiol- and progesterone-sensitized female mice were injected with letrozole-sensitive and -resistant T47D breast cancer cells in the mammary glands and then euthanized. The glands were cultured in vitro with hormonesupplemented media. On day 25, the glands were fixed and processed by histopathology and immunohistochemistry to evaluate for the presence of T47D cells, growth pattern, cancer markers and estradiol responsiveness. Histopathological analyses demonstrated an identical pattern of growth between the breast cancer cells injected ex vivo and in vivo. Interestingly, clusters of cancer cells in themammary gland stroma appeared similar to those observed in human breast tumors. The injected T47D cells survived and proliferated for 15 days maintaining expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and aromatase. The aromataseoverexpressing T47D grown in the BCa-MMOC sufficiently metabolized estrogen, resulting in enhanced cell proliferation, induction of estrogen target genes (i.e. ER and PR-B), and showed typical changes to estrogenic milieu. In summary, here we show a novel, inexpensive ex vivo model, to potentially study the effects of therapeutic agents on cancer cells grown in an orthotopic micromilieu.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbio051649
JournalBiology Open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Breast cancer model
  • Mammary gland
  • Organ culture
  • Orthotopic model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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