Assays for functionally defined normal and malignant mammary stem cells

Syed Mohammed Musheer Aalam, Philip Anthony Beer, Nagarajan Kannan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The discovery of rare, heterogeneous self-renewing stem cells with shared developmental and molecular features within epithelial components of mammary gland and breast cancers has provided a conceptual framework to understand cellular composition of these tissues and mechanisms that control their number. These normal mammary epithelial stem cells (MaSCs) and breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) were identified and analyzed using transplant assays (namely mammary repopulating unit (MRU) assay, mammary tumor-initiating cell (TIC) assay), which reveal their latent ability to regenerate respective normal and malignant epithelial tissues with self-renewing units displaying hierarchical cellular differentiation over multiple generations in recipient mice. “Next-generation” methods using “barcoded” normal and malignant mammary cells, with the help of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology, have revealed hidden complexity and heterogeneous growth potential of MaSCs and BCSCs. Several single markers or combinations of markers have been reported to prospectively enrich MaSCs and BCSCs. Such markers and the extent to which they enrich for MaSCs and BCSCs activity require a critical appraisal. Also, knowledge of the functional assays and their limitations and harmonious reporting of results is a prerequisite to improve our understanding of MaSCs and BCSCs. This chapter describes evolution of the concept of MaSCs and BCSCs, and specific methodologies to investigate them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCancer Stem Cells
EditorsCurt I. Civin, Tami J. Kingsbury, MinJung Kim, Paul B. Fisher
PublisherAcademic Press Inc
Number of pages46
ISBN (Print)9780128149942
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Publication series

NameAdvances in Cancer Research
ISSN (Print)0065-230X
ISSN (Electronic)2162-5557


  • Breast
  • Breast cancer stem cells
  • Lentiviral DNA barcoding
  • Limiting dilution analysis
  • Mammary gland
  • Mammary repopulating unit (MRU) assay
  • Mammary stem cells
  • Tumor initiating cell assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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