Solid human tumors and their surrounding microenvironment are hypothesized to co-evolve in a manner that promotes tumor growth, invasiveness and spread. Mouse models of cancer have focused on genetic changes in the epithelial tumor cells and therefore have not robustly tested this hypothesis. We have recently developed a murine breast cancer model that ablates the PTEN tumor suppressor pathway in stromal fibroblasts. Remarkably, the model resembles human breast tumors both at morphologic and molecular levels. We propose that such models reflect subtypes of tumor-stromal co-evolution relevant to human breast cancer, and will therefore be useful in defining the mechanisms that underpin tumor-stroma crosstalk. Additionally, these models should also aid in molecularly classifying human breast tumors based on both the microenvironment subtypes they contain as well as on the tumor subtype.
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