BRCA1 in initiation, invasion, and metastasis of breast cancer: a perspective from the tumor microenvironment

  • Shaun D. McCullough
  • Yanfen Hu
  • Rong Li
Part of the Cancer Metastasis – Biology and Treatment book series (CMBT, volume 11)


Women who inherit cancer-predisposing mutations in the BRCA1 gene have about 80% lifetime chance of developing breast cancer. BRCA1 mutation-associated tumors are often diagnosed as high-grade, typically display a basal epithelial phenotype, and proliferate rapidly. While somatic mutations of BRCA1 are rarely found in sporadic breast cancer cases, 30– 40% of the sporadic cases show reduced BRCA1 expression, supporting the notion that impaired BRCA1 function may contribute to the development of both familial and sporadic forms of breast cancer. Furthermore, low levels of BRCA1 expression have been linked with the occurrence of distant metastases in sporadic disease. Since cloning of the gene more than a decade ago, BRCA1 has been implicated in a large array of cellular functions, most notably DNA damage repair. However, the relationship between the known molecular functions of BRCA1 and the clinicopathological features of BRCA1-associated tumors remains elusive. Why do BRCA1 mutations predominantly affect female breast and ovaries? Why do BRCA1-associated cancers tend to have a poor prognosis? How can the knowledge of BRCA1 function be translated into more targeted and efficacious therapies? In this review, we will discuss these important issues in light of some recent findings from laboratory and preclinical studies, which point to a need to look “outside the box” of epithelial cells by elucidating BRCA1 functions in the context of the unique tumor microenvironment.


BRCA1 DNA repair transcription estrogen tissue-specificity estrogen receptor tumor microenvironment 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaun D. McCullough
    • 1
  • Yanfen Hu
    • 2
  • Rong Li
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular GeneticsSchool of Medicine University of VirginiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular GeneticsSchool of Medicine University of VirginiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular GeneticsSchool of Medicine University of VirginiaUSA

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