Breast cancer is more frequent in human nulliparae, whereas its incidence is reduced by early fullterm pregnancy. Rodent studies suggest that chorionic gonadotropin secretion during pregnancy affords protection by inducing breast structure differentiation. Opposite effects, however, have been observed in cancer prone transgenic mice overexpressing the β subunit of chorionic gonadotropin or pituitary luteinic hormone (LH). Here we assessed the effect of administration of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) for 21 days (corresponding to the duration of a mouse pregnancy) in virgin female mice transgenic for the activated rat (r-) ERBB-2 oncogene (BALB-neuT). In these mice, the onset of atypical mammary duct hyperplasia and its progression towards multiple mammary carcinomas is accelerated by hCG. hCG enhances the in vitro proliferation and in vivo metastatization of tumor cells from a BALB-neuT mammary tumor expressing the hCG/LH as well as the ERBB-2 receptors. These findings suggest that hCG favours the growth and progression of hCG/LH and ERBB-2 receptor-positive breast tumors.
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