Breast cancer characteristics are modified by first trimester human placenta: In vitro co-culture study

S. Tartakover-Matalon*, A. Mizrahi, G. Epstein, A. Shneifi, L. Drucker, M. Pomeranz, A. Fishman, J. Radnay, M. Lishner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Pregnant women with breast cancer present with a more advanced disease compared with non-pregnant women. Nevertheless, breast cancer metastasis to the placenta is rare. Trophoblast/tumor implantations share the same biochemical mediators, while only the first is stringently controlled. We hypothesized that the same mechanisms that affect/restrain placental implantation may inhibit metastatic growth in the placenta. We aimed to analyze the effects of human placenta on breast cancer cells. METHODS: First trimester human placental explants were co-cultured with MCF-7/T47D-eGFP tagged cells. Following culture, placenta/cancer cells/both were fixed, paraffin embedded and sliced for immunohistochemical analysis or sorted by their eGFP expression for future analysis. The tested parameters were: proliferation (immunohistochemistry)/cell cycle (FACS), apoptosis (immunohistochemistry/FACS), cell count/adhesion/distribution around the placenta (cell sorter, visual observation and counting), matrix metalloproteinase activity (zymogram) and estrogen receptor (ER) expression (western blotting, immunohistochemistry). RESULTS: Reduced breast cancer cell numbers (45↓, 48↓ for MCF-7/T47D, respectively, P < 0.05) were observed near the placenta. The placenta elevated MCF-7 sub-G1 phase and modestly elevated apoptosis (3-17↑ for T47D/MCF-7, respectively, P < 0.05). Our findings demonstrate breast cancer cell migration from the placenta as: (i) T47D/MCF-7 cells changed their morphology to that of motile cells; (ii) elevated MMPs activity was found in the co-culture; (iii) placental soluble factors detached breast cancer cells; and (4) the placenta reduced MCF-7/T47D cells' ER expression (a characteristic of motile cells). CONCLUSIONS: MCF-7/T47D cells are eliminated from the placental surroundings. Analyzing the causes of these phenomena may suggest biological pathways for this event and raise new therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2441-2454
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • apoptosis
  • breast cancer
  • migration
  • pregnancy


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