Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 111–121 | Cite as

Biological differences among MCF-7 human breast cancer cell lines from different laboratories

  • C. Kent Osborne
  • Kimberly Hobbs
  • Jeffrey M. Trent


MCF-7 human breast cancer cells are used widely for studies of tumor biology and hormone mechanism of action. Conflicting results have often been obtained in studies reported from different laboratories. In this report several biological properties were studied in four MCF-7 cell lines obtained from different laboratories. MCF-7 (ATCC), MCF-7, MCF-7 (KO), and MCF-7 (S) demonstrated similar morphology in monolayer culture. Chromosome analysis revealed that three of the lines shared several structural chromosome alterations and marker chromsomes; however, MCF-7 (ATCC) was distinctly different with virtually no chromosomal alterations shared in common with the other lines. All four lines contained variable amounts of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR). The growth rate of MCF-7 (ATCC) was 50% slower than that of the other lines, and, unlike the other three lines, cell proliferation was unaffected by estrogen or antiestrogen treatment despite the presence of receptors. Cloning efficiency of the four lines varied over a 10-fold range. Tumorigenicity in athymic nude mice also varied considerably among these lines. MCF-7 (ATCC) grew well in ovariectomized nude mice, while the other lines required estrogen supplementation. MCF-7 (S) and MCF-7 grew rapidly with estrogen supplementation; MCF-7 (KO) grew very slowly. Antiestrogen therapy inhibited growth of MCF-7, MCF-7 (S), and MCF-7 (KO) tumors, but it had no effect on MCF-7 (ATCC). These data demonstrate that MCF-7 lines from different laboratories may have unique biological properties, despite having a similar karyotype (MCF-7, MCF-7 (S), MCF-7 (KO)). The fundamental differences in karyotype and biological properties of the MCF-7 (ATCC), and the previously reported differences in DNA restriction fragment polymorphism analyses, demonstrate that this line is derived from an entirely different patient. Investigators should carefully document the source and identity of MCF-7 cells used in published experiments.

Key words

breast cancer cloning efficiency karyotype MCF-7 cells nude mice 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Kent Osborne
    • 1
  • Kimberly Hobbs
    • 1
  • Jeffrey M. Trent
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medicine Division of OncologyThe University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Cancer CenterUniversity of Arizona Health Sciences CenterTucsonUSA

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