A colony of mice suffering from dominant hemimelia associated with agenesis of the spleen has been developed and characterized during the past 7 years. The hereditarily asplenic (Dh/+) mice have a very low incidence (9%) of spontaneous mammary tumors (SMT). Asplenic (Dh/+) females were mated with mice homozygous (nu/nu) for hereditary athymia (nude) having a BALB/c background. BALB/c females heterozygous for the nu gene and with spleen (nu/+, +/+) have a moderate incidence (12%) of SMT, whereas nu/+, Dh/+ breeders have a drastic increase in the incidence of SMT to 46% when bred under identical conditions. Since all parent strains have a very low incidence of SMT, it appears that the spleen agenesis is a major factor accounting for an earlier and higher incidence of SMT in hereditarily asplenic (nu/+, Dh/+) mice than in normal (nu/+, +/+) siblings. The SMT express mammary tumor virus antigen(s) and possess estrogen, progesterone, and glucocorticoid receptors. The SMT rapidly metastasize and kill the host within 30 to 45 days. The BALB/c asplenic mice with SMT represent a unique model relevant to human breast cancer and for study of the function of the spleen in the development of solid tumors in general and of SMT in particular.

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