Biology of DCIS and Progression to Invasive Disease

Part of the Medical Radiology book series (MEDRAD)


Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer in which neoplastic cells are confined within the breast milk duct basement membrane. Prior to the widespread use of screening mammography DCIS was a rare diagnosis, but now comprises 20–30 % of all newly diagnosed breast cancers in the US. This diagnosis is often treated in a fashion similar to invasive breast cancer. Standard treatment typically consists of breast-conserving surgery (with or without radiotherapy) or mastectomy. There is a growing clinical concern that many patients with DCIS are being over-treated since their disease will never progress to invasive life-threatening carcinomas. But how can this indolent subset be identified? A better understanding of the biology of DCIS and how it transforms into invasive cancer will shed light on this important clinical goal. In this chapter, we identify important molecular pathways responsible for regulating cellular proliferation, apoptosis, and genome integrity that are altered in DCIS. We find surprisingly few differences on a genomic or gene-expression level between DCIS and invasive disease. We introduce diverse models of DCIS progression that are stochastic versus predetermined and discuss how the empirical data supports or challenges these models. Due to the considerable difficulty of studying DCIS, many unanswered questions remain. Improvements in molecular assays and model systems may provide further insights into the etiology and natural history of this disease entity.


Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Intratumor Heterogeneity Comedo Necrosis Genetically Engineer Mouse Preinvasive Cancer 



Ductal carcinoma in situ


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Estrogen receptor


Fluorescence in situ hybridization


Genetically engineered mice


Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2


Invasive ductal carcinoma




Mammary intraepithelial neoplasia


Magnetic resonance imaging


Progesterone receptor


Ribonucleic acid


Terminal ductal lobular unit



I would like to thank Dr. Amit Adhikari and the NIH Fellows Editorial Board for useful feedback.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mouse Cancer Genetics ProgramNational Cancer Institute, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer ResearchFrederickUSA

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