The introduction of concepts proposing multiple cellular subgroups in the normal female breast leads to the hypothesis that distinct cellular phenotypes in the female breast give rise to different subtypes of breast carcinomas e.g. expressing ER, HER2 and EGFR differentially. Therefore, origin of breast carcinoma types may be based on the formation of a cancer prone field in which the committed progenitor cells pass mutations to their progenies, glandular as well as myoepithelial cells. The existence of such field within the human breast was inferred from the results on primary breast cancer obtained by PCR-based microsatellite analysis of allelic imbalance (AI) of the EGF receptor gene. Here, normal breast tissue shows egfr AI adjacent to breast cancer tissue also harboring egfr gene AI. The therapeutic implications of such a model are fundamental, as tumors may display different phenotypes which arise from transformation of different progenitor cells as well as from transformation of more differentiated progenies within a cancer prone field. Thereby they may show up with different clinical courses of the disease, higher rates of metastases and responses to therapy. In this review, we discuss this mechanism focusing on the EGF receptor as an example for regulators of progenitor cell growth in many tissues. Phylloides tumors serve as a putative model for embryonic differentiation stage ruled by EGFR signaling and give insights into the tumor-host-interaction. The inhibition of the EGF receptor by specific monoclonal antibodies (e.g. Erbitux) will give an answer in as far EGFR-signaling is decisive for the development of an invasive breast cancer. For this purpose new models have been inaugurated which vary in the EGF receptor gene dosage and protein expression. Moreover, we discuss the EGF receptor as a target for the treatment of pre-malignant lesions with a high risk for malignant growth, e.g. DCIS, which certainly will be detected more frequently by mammography screening programs soon.
Keywords: Committed progenitor, cancer prone field, egfr, AI, amplification, CA-SSR I
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