Tumour microenvironment and cancer-associated fibroblasts in particular exhibit tumour promoting abilities that are not present in their normal counterparts (Calvo et al., 2013; Hanahan and Coussens, 2012). Therefore, functional and molecular characterization of the modifications occurring in fibroblasts during tumour progression is essential to fully understand their role in tumour progression. Previous studies have addressed this issue using human fibroblasts and comparing normal and adjacent fibroblasts to tumour-associated fibroblasts (Kalluri and Zeisberg, 2006). However, these studies are hampered by the intrinsic variability of human samples (e.g. pairing, age, genomic landscape, etc). In order to overcome these issues, we used a fully characterised mouse breast cancer model, MMTV-PyMT (Guy et al., 1992; Lin et al., 2003). MMTV-PyMT transgenic mice express the Polyoma Virus middle T antigen under the direction of the mouse mammary tumor virus promoter/enhancer. This is a multifocal luminal breast cancer model that goes through well defined and characterised stages (namely, hyperplasia, adenoma, carcinoma and invasive carcinoma). Interestingly, this model has a 100% incidence, is very desmoplastic (presenting high concentration of fibroblasts) and gives raise to spontaneous metastasis in the lung with 80-94% incidence. Importantly, at least for the inguinal mammary glands (glands 4 and 9), the different tumoral stages are well correlated to the age of the mouse: hyperplasia arising at 6 weeks of age, adenoma between 6-8 weeks of age, carcinoma and invasive carcinoma from 8 weeks onwards. This model allowed us to confidently isolate fibroblasts from different tumoral stages and carefully characterise their functional and molecular properties (Calvo et al., 2013).
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