Stable ‘portrait’ of breast tumors during progression: data from biology, pathology and genetics

    1. G Leclercq
    1. Laboratoire Jean-Claude Heuson de Cancérologie Mammaire, Institut Jules Bordet, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 127 boulevard de Waterloo, B-1000 Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
    1. (Requests for offprints should be addressed to M Lacroix; Email: Marc.Lacroix{at}


    It is widely believed that ductal breast cancer dissemination involves a succession of clinical and pathological stages starting with carcinoma in situ, progressing into invasive lesion and culminating in metastatic disease. Such changes have frequently been attributed to the sequential acquisition of various alterations in a single cell followed by clonal selection and expansion, thus leading to intra-tumor diversity. According to this multi-step view, extensive genotype and phenotype (marker expression, grade) shift may occur in the same tumor during progression; this may lead to the coexistence of molecularly and/or pathologically different areas within the same lesion. An increasing amount of data of various natures now appear to challenge this concept: only a few distinct ‘portraits’, in relation to estrogen receptor (ER) status and grade, may be found among tumors. Moreover, although undergoing increasing genetic alteration, most individual lesions largely maintain their phenotype when they evolve from in situ to the metastatic state. While many of the data presented here are related to ductal tumors, lobular cancer is also discussed.

    | Table of Contents