Growth of normal and malignant human mammary epithelial cells in culture

Willis L. Kirkland, Ning Sun Yang, Trudy Jorgensen, Clifford Longley, Philip Furmanski

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Normal and malignant human mammary epithelial cells were placed in culture. Normal cells were recovered from late-lactation milk and breast fluids, and malignant cells were isolated from primary breast tumors by collagenase digestion. The concentration of cells obtained from breast fluid samples was inversely proportional to the volume of fluid secreted. Most of these cells adhered rapidly to the substrate, did not replicate, displayed Fc receptor-dependent phagocytic activity, and were thus identified as macrophages. The remaining cells grew out into large Islands comprised of one or two distinct morphologic types of mammary epithelial cells. Optimum growth of these cells was obtained in medium buffered to pH 6.8, and the epidermal growth factor markedly prolonged the exponential growth phase of the cells. Two morphologically distinct populations of epithelial cells were also observed in cultures established from individual breast tumors. Growth of the malignant cells was relatively unaffected by the pH of the culture medium, and the cells were unresponsive to exogenously added hormones. Overgrowth of malignant epithelial cells in primary cultures by stromal fibroblasts was retarded by replacement of standard growth medium with fresh medium containing a serum substitute; growth of the malignant epithelial cells was unaffected. A feeder layer of mitomycin C-treated human fibroblasts increased the plating efficiency ot both normal and malignant cells in primary culture and also facilitated passage of these cells to secondary and tertiary cultures.—JNCI 63: 29–41, 1979.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1979
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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