Is MMTV associated with human breast cancer? Maybe, but probably not

Raisa Perzova, Lynn Abbott, Patricia Benz, Steve Landas, Seema Khan, Jordan Glaser, Coleen K. Cunningham, Bernard Poiesz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Conflicting results regarding the association of MMTV with human breast cancer have been reported. Published sequence data have indicated unique MMTV strains in some human samples. However, concerns regarding contamination as a cause of false positive results have persisted. Methods: We performed PCR assays for MMTV on human breast cancer cell lines and fresh frozen and formalin fixed normal and malignant human breast epithelial samples. Assays were also performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from volunteer blood donors and subjects at risk for human retroviral infections. In addition, assays were performed on DNA samples from wild and laboratory mice. Sequencing of MMTV positive samples from both humans and mice were performed and phylogenetically compared. Results: Using PCR under rigorous conditions to prevent and detect "carryover" contamination, we did detect MMTV DNA in human samples, including breast cancer. However, the results were not consistent and seemed to be an artifact. Further, experiments indicated that the probable source of false positives was murine DNA, containing endogenous MMTV, present in our building. However, comparison of published and, herein, newly described MMTV sequences with published data, indicates that there are some very unique human MMTV sequences in the literature. Conclusion: While we could not confirm the true presence of MMTV in our human breast cancer subjects, the data indicate that further, perhaps more traditional, retroviral studies are warranted to ascertain whether MMTV might rarely be the cause of human breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
JournalVirology Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 13 2017


  • Endogenous retroviruses
  • Human breast cancer
  • Mmtv
  • Phylogenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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