Cellular calcium dynamics in lactation and breast cancer: From physiology to pathology

Brandie M. Cross, Gerda E. Breitwieser, Timothy A. Reinhardt, Rajini Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women, estimated at nearly 40,000 deaths and more than 230,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. One of the defining characteristics of breast cancer is the radiographic presence of microcalcifications. These palpable mineral precipitates are commonly found in the breast after formation of a tumor. Since free Ca2+ plays a crucial role as a second messenger inside cells, we hypothesize that these chelated precipitates may be a result of dysregulated Ca2+ secretion associated with tumorigenesis. Transient and sustained elevations of intracellular Ca2+ regulate cell proliferation, apoptosis and cell migration, and offer numerous therapeutic possibilities in controlling tumor growth and metastasis. During lactation, a developmentally determined program of gene expression controls the massive transcellular mobilization of Ca2+from the blood into milk by the coordinated action of calcium transporters, including pumps, channels, sensors and buffers, in a functional module that we term CALTRANS. Here we assess the evidence implicating genes that regulate free and buffered Ca2+in normal breast epithelium and cancer cells and discuss mechanisms that are likely to contribute to the pathological characteristics of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C515-C526
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2014


  • Breast cancer
  • Lactation
  • Mammary epithelium
  • SPCA2
  • Secretory pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cellular calcium dynamics in lactation and breast cancer: From physiology to pathology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this