Postpartum breast cancer patients are at increased risk for metastasis compared to age-matched nulliparous or pregnant patients. Here, we address whether circulating tumor cells have a metastatic advantage in the postpartum host and find the post-lactation rodent liver preferentially supports metastasis. Upon weaning, we observed liver weight loss, hepatocyte apoptosis, ECM remodeling including deposition of collagen and tenascin-C, and myeloid cell influx, data consistent with weaning-induced liver involution and establishment of a pro-metastatic microenvironment. Using intracardiac and intraportal metastasis models, we observed increased liver metastasis in post-weaning Balb/c mice compared to nulliparous controls. Human relevance is suggested by a ~3-fold increase in liver metastasis in postpartum breast cancer patients (n=564) and by liver-specific tropism (n=117). In sum, our data reveal a previously unknown biology of the rodent liver, weaning-induced liver involution, which may provide insight into the increased liver metastasis and poor prognosis of women diagnosed with postpartum breast cancer.
- Received July 25, 2016.
- Revision received December 8, 2016.
- Accepted December 8, 2016.
- Copyright ©2016, American Association for Cancer Research.