Prolonged tamoxifen exposure selects a breast cancer cell clone that is stable in vitro and in vivo

Pirkko E.H. Sipila, Valerie J. Wiebe, Gene B. Hubbard, Steven K. Koester, Vernon D. Emshoff, Juhani U. Maenpaa, Gregory T. Wurz, Robert C. Seymour, Michael W. DeGregorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The effects of long-term tamoxifen exposure on cell growth and cell cycle kinetics were compared between oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive (MCF-7) and ER-negative (MDA-MB-231) cell lines. In the MCF-7 cell line, prolonged tamoxifen exposure (0.5 μmol/l for > 100 days) blocked cells in G0-G1 of the cell cycle, and slowed the doubling time of cells from 30 to 59 h. These effects corresponded to an increase in the cellular accumulation of tamoxifen over time [mean area under concentration curve (AUC) = 77.92 μmoles/106/cells/day]. In contrast, in the MDA-MB-231 cell line, long-term tamoxifen exposure had no obvious effect on the doubling time, and reduced cellular tamoxifen accumulation (mean AUC = 50.50 μmoles/106/cells/day) compared to the MCF-7 cells. Flow cytometric analysis of MDA-MB-231 cells demonstrated that a new tetraploid clone emerged following 56 days of tamoxifen exposure. Inoculation of the MDA-MB-231 tetraploid clone and MDA-MB-231 wildtype cells into the opposite flanks of athymic nude mice resulted in the rapid growth of tetraploid tumours. The tetraploid tumours maintained their ploidy following tamoxifen treatment for nine consecutive serial transplantations. Histological examination of the fifth transplant generation xenografts revealed that the tetraploid tumour had a 25-30 times greater mass, area of haemorrhage and necrosis, a slightly higher mitotic index and was more anaplastic than the control neoplasm. The control wildtype MDA-MB-231 tumours maintained a stable ploidy following tamoxifen treatment until the eighth and ninth transplantation, when a tetraploid population appeared, suggesting that tamoxifen treatment may select for this clone in vivo. These studies suggest that prolonged tamoxifen exposure may select for new, stable, fast growing cell clones in vitro as well as in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2138-2144
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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