Ever since Bishop and his co-workers discovered the c-myc gene in the late 1970s (Bishop 1982), voluminous literature has documented its central role in proliferation and malignant transformation of human and animal cells (Amati et al. 1998, Bouchard et al. 1998, Dang et al. 1999). Most, if not all, types of human malignancy have been reported to have amplification and/or overexpression of this gene, although the frequency of these alterations varies greatly among different reports (Nesbit et al. 1999). In 1992, researchers started to realize that aberrant expression of c-myc could cause apoptosis (Evan et al. 1992, Shi et al. 1992), although the phenomenon had actually been observed much earlier (Wurm et al. 1986). Studies in recent years have further shown that the c-myc gene regulates growth, both in the sense of cell size and in the context of tissue differentiation (Gandarillas & Watt 1997, Iritani & Eisenman 1999, Johnston et al. 1999, Schmidt 1999, Schuhmacher et al. 1999). Thus, it is now known that the c-myc gene participates in most aspects of cellular function, including replication, growth, metabolism, differentiation, and apoptosis (Packham & Cleveland 1995, Hoffman & Liebermann 1998, Dang 1999, Dang et al. 1999, Elend & Eilers 1999, Prendergast 1999). How the c-Myc protein may be specifically directed to perform one, but not the others, of these functions is still obscure, despite the fact that the relevant literature has been accumulating at a fast pace in the past two decades. This review focuses on the profound roles of c-Myc in breast cancer and in the actions of the hormones that are eitologically related to breast cancer.
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