Full-length HER2 oncoprotein and splice variant Delta16 are co-expressed in human breast cancer. We studied their interaction in hybrid transgenic mice bearing human full-length HER2 and Delta16 (F1 HER2/Delta16) in comparison to parental HER2 and Delta16 transgenic mice. Mammary carcinomas onset was faster in F1 HER2/Delta16 and Delta16 than in HER2 mice, however tumor growth was slower, and metastatic spread was comparable in all transgenic mice. Full-length HER2 tumors contained few large vessels or vascular lacunae, whereas Delta16 tumors presented a more regular vascularization with numerous endothelium-lined small vessels. Delta16-expressing tumors showed a higher accumulation of i.v. injected doxorubicin than tumors expressing full-length HER2. F1 HER2/Delta16 tumors with high full-length HER2 expression made few large vessels, whereas tumors with low full-length HER2 and high Delta16 contained numerous small vessels and expressed higher levels of VEGF and VEGFR2. Trastuzumab strongly inhibited tumor onset in F1 HER2/Delta16 and Delta16 mice, but not in full-length HER2 mice. Addiction of F1 tumors to Delta16 was also shown by long-term stability of Delta16 levels during serial transplants, in contrast full-length HER2 levels underwent wide fluctuations. In conclusion, full-length HER2 leads to a faster tumor growth and to an irregular vascularization, whereas Delta16 leads to a faster tumor onset, with more regular vessels, which in turn could better transport cytotoxic drugs within the tumor, and to a higher sensitivity to targeted therapeutic agents. F1 HER2/Delta16 mice are a new immunocompetent mouse model, complementary to patient-derived xenografts, for studies of mammary carcinoma onset, prevention and therapy.
- animal models of cancer
- breast cancer
- model of host-tumor interactions