A spontaneous murine mammary carcinoma, designated SP1, grew more aggressively in the mammary gland than in the subcutis exhibiting a 10-fold lower 50% lethal tumor dose and the ability to metastasize spontaneously from the orthotopic mammary gland site. The appearance of metastasis could be abrogated by resection of the primary tumor up to 21 days postinjection, arguing against the possibility that metastasis occurred due to trauma of the injection and/or healing processes. In addition, tumor cells recovered from lung metastases exhibited an increased ability to metastasize when reinjected into either the s.c. or mammary sites. Tumor cells from lung metastases showed low levels of Class I major histocompatibility (MHC) antigens, like the parental SP1 cells, but were found to express differentiation markers typical of normal basal and luminal mammary epithelium. SP1 tumors expressed increased Class I MHC antigens, as well as high levels of basal and luminal breast epithelial markers, within 7 days of implantation into the mammary gland. On the other hand, SP1 tumors growing in the subcutis never expressed increased Class I MHC levels and expressed the epithelial marker antigens at lower levels and not until at least 21 days of growth. Removal of host epithelium by cauterization of the mammary bud at 3 weeks had no effect on the increased growth, metastasis and acquired heterogeneity of MHC and epithelial associated antigens, suggesting that the mammary gland stroma was responsible for the observed phenomenon. These findings suggest that the mammary gland either selects distinct tumor subpopulations, or induces a phenotypic change leading to tumor progression and the generation of metastatic subpopulations.
This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and the Medical Research Council of Canada to B. E. E., and from NIH (CA 28366) to F. R. M.
Animals were maintained under the guidelines set forth by the Animal Care Committee, Queen's University.