Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

David S. Pederson


In the United States, metastatic breast cancer kills approximately 40,000 women and 400 men annually, and approximately 200,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year. Worldwide, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Despite advances in the detection and treatment of metastatic breast cancer, mortality rates from this disease remain high because the fact is that once metastatic, it is virtually incurable. It is widely accepted that a major reason breast cancer continues to exhibit recurrence after remission is that current therapies are insufficient for targeting and eliminating therapy-resistant cancer cells. Emerging research has demonstrated that these therapy-resistant cells possess stem cell-like properties and are therefore commonly referred to as breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs). A major hallmark of BCSCs is the cell surface expression of CD44 and lack of expression of CD24, the so-called CD24-/CD44+ phenotype. Research indicates that this dangerous and rare subpopulation of BCSCs may be responsible for cancer onset, recurrence, and ultimately metastasis that leads to death.

Two different model systems were utilized in this research. The first was the MCF7 cell line, a luminal A tumor subtype representative of a mildly invasive breast ductal carcinoma with an ER+/PR+/-/HER2- immunoprofile. The second was the MCF10A breast cancer progression model, which consists of three cell lines: MCF10A, MCF10AT1, and MCF10CA1a. In this system, spontaneously immortalized, non-malignant MCF10A cells were transfected with constitutively active H-Ras to form pre-malignant MCF10AT1 cells, which were then subcutaneously injected into mice and allowed to metastasize in order to form the oncogenic MCF10ACA1a cell line.

This thesis presents evidence of a CD24low/-/CD44+ BCSC subpopulation within the MCF10A breast cancer progression model system. Findings indicate that RUNX1 and RUNX2 expression levels are involved in maintaining the BCSC phenotype. Across two different model systems, qRT-PCR analysis revealed that decreased levels of RUNX1 expression and increased levels of RUNX2 expression are essential for the maintenance of the BCSC subpopulation. It was also shown that low expression levels of RUNX1 and high expression levels of RUNX2 are present in CD24low/-/CD44+ BCSCs as compared to CD24+/CD44+ non-BCSCs. Furthermore, shRNA knockdown of RUNX1 was shown to enhance tumorigenicity, while shRNA knockdown of RUNX2 repressed tumorigenicity in BCSCs, as measured by the tumorsphere-formation assay. This research lays the groundwork for future investigations into the roles of RUNX1 and RUNX2 in regulating stemness in breast cancer.



Number of Pages

59 p.