Mammary cancer susceptibility: human genes and rodent models
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Breast cancer is a complex disease, showing a strong genetic component. Several human susceptibility genes have been identified, especially in the last few months. Most of these genes are low-penetrance genes and it is clear that numerous other susceptibility genes remain to be identified. The function of several susceptibility genes indicates that one critical biological pathway is the DNA damage response. However, other pathways certainly play a significant role in breast cancer susceptibility. Rodent models of breast cancer are useful models in two respects. They can help identify new mammary susceptibility genes by taking advantage of the very divergent susceptibilities exhibited by different mouse or rat strains and carrying out relevant genetic analyses. They also provide investigators with experimental systems that can help decipher the mechanism(s) of resistance to mammary cancer. Recent genetic and biological results obtained with mouse and especially with rat strains indicate that (1) numerous quantitative trait loci control mammary cancer susceptibility or resistance, with distinct loci acting in different strains, and (2) distinct resistance mechanisms operate in different rat resistant strains, precocious mammary differentiation being one of these mechanisms.
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