An Orthotopic mouse model of spontaneous breast cancer metastasis

Amy V. Paschall, Kebin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Metastasis is the primary cause of mortality of breast cancer patients. The mechanism underlying cancer cell metastasis, including breast cancer metastasis, is largely unknown and is a focus in cancer research. Various breast cancer spontaneous metastasis mouse models have been established. Here, we report a simplified procedure to establish orthotopic transplanted breast cancer primary tumor and resultant spontaneous metastasis that mimic human breast cancer metastasis. Combined with the bioluminescence live tumor imaging, this mouse model allows tumor growth and progression kinetics to be monitored and quantified. In this model, a low dose (1 × 104 cells) of 4T1-Luc breast cancer cells was injected into BALB/c mouse mammary fat pad using a tuberculin syringe. Mice were injected with luciferin and imaged at various time points using a bioluminescent imaging system. When the primary tumors grew to the size limit as in the IACUC-approved protocol (approximately 30 days), mice were anesthetized under constant flow of 2% isoflurane and oxygen. The tumor area was sterilized with 70% ethanol. The mouse skin around the tumor was excised to expose the tumor which was removed with a pair of sterile scissors. Removal of the primary tumor extends the survival of the 4T-1 tumor-bearing mice for one month. The mice were then repeatedly imaged for metastatic tumor spreading to distant organs. Therapeutic agents can be administered to suppress tumor metastasis at this point. This model is simple and yet sensitive in quantifying breast cancer cell growth in the primary site and progression kinetics to distant organs, and thus is an excellent model for studying breast cancer growth and progression, and for testing anti-metastasis therapeutic and immunotherapeutic agents in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54040
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number114
StatePublished - Aug 14 2016


  • 4T1 model
  • Breast cancer
  • Issue 114
  • Live imaging
  • Lung metastasis
  • Medicine
  • Spontaneous metastasis
  • Surgical removal of primary tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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