Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 473–485 | Cite as

The in vitro and in vivo effects of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells on the growth of breast cancer cells

  • Yi Ma
  • Xiaomeng Hao
  • Sheng Zhang
  • Jin ZhangEmail author
Preclinical study


The purpose of the study was to detect the effect and possible mechanism of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (hUCMSCs) on the in vitro and in vivo growth of stem cells isolated from primary human breast cancer cells and cell lines MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7. Primary human breast cancer cells and MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells were sorted in vitro using flow cytometry, and the ESA+, CD44+, CD24−/low cells were isolated as breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). The inhibitory effect of hUCMSCs on CSCs was examined using the Cell Counting Kit-8 cell proliferation and soft agar colony formation assay. In vivo tumor inhibition was studied using a severe combined immunodeficient xenograft mouse model transplanted with MDA-MB-231 breast CSCs. The expression of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and AKT was examined in the xenograft tumors using immunohistochemistry. The number of colonies formed by breast CSCs co-cultured with hUCMSCs at the bottom of soft agar was significantly lower than those formed by the control group (P < 0.01). Compared with the control group, the CSCs co-cultured with hUCMSCs showed a higher number of cells in the G2–M phase (P < 0.05) and an increased number of apoptotic cells (P < 0.01). The mice in the medium- and high-concentration hUCMSC treatment groups exhibited clearly reduced tumor volume and tumor weight, compared with the control group (P < 0.01). Compared with the saline group, the xenograft tumor tissues from the mice treated with different concentrations of hUCMSCs showed significantly reduced levels of PI3K and AKT proteins (P < 0.001). In conclusion, hUCMSC significantly inhibited the growth of breast CSCs in vitro and in vivo. The underlying mechanism is likely related to cell cycle arrest, induction of tumor cell apoptosis, and suppressed activities of PI3K and AKT protein kinases.


Human umbilical cord matrix stem cells Breast cancer Cancer stem cells 



This study was supported by Tianjin support special focus on prevention and treatment of major diseases (No. 08ZCKFSF03200), Tianjin International cooperation resolution multicolor fluorescence in situ hybridization of new technology in cancer research and diagnosis (No. 09ZCZDSF03800), International Cooperation Ministry of Science and Quantitative single-cell analysis in multi-gene cancer research and diagnosis (No. 2010DFB30270). The authors sincerely thank Professor Tao Cheng and Professor Weiping Yuan, from the State Key Laboratory of Experimental Hematology, Institute of Hematology and Blood Diseases Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Tianjin 300020, China, who provided guidance and technical support for us.

Conflict of interest

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yi Ma
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xiaomeng Hao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sheng Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jin Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Tianjin Medical University Cancer HospitalTianjinPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Breast Cancer Prevention and Therapy of Ministry of EducationTianjinPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Cancer Prevention and Therapy in TianjinTianjinPeople’s Republic of China

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