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Basal-like Breast Cancers: From Pathology to Biology and Back Again

By June 18, 2018No Comments

Human breast cancers referred to as “basal-like” are of interest because they lack effective therapies and their biology is poorly understood. The term basal-like derives from studies demonstrating tumor gene expression profiles that include some transcripts characteristic of the basal cells of the normal adult human mammary gland and others associated with a subset of normal luminal cells. Elucidating the mechanisms responsible for the profiles of basal-like tumors is an active area of investigation. More refined molecular analysis of patients’ samples and genetic strategies to produce breast cancers de novo from defined populations of normal mouse mammary cells have served as complementary approaches to identify relevant pathway alterations. However, both also have limitations. Here, we review some of the underlying reasons, including the unifying concept that some normal luminal cells have both luminal and basal features, as well as some emerging new avenues of investigation.