Primary cells from the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank

Cell culture

What we do

The Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank is not accepting new applications for Tissues and Cells until 19 September 2016. This is so we can introduce a new Tissue Bank sample database and optimise associated application and sample delivery processes. We will continue to fulfil applications made before the Bank closed on 22 June 2016.  

We are the only breast tissue bank in the UK offering primary cells isolated from human breast tissues. We also provide information and advice to researchers who would like to use primary cells.

Currently, we can offer tissue explants, organoids and purified populations of cells isolated from normal, high-risk, cancer-containing and malignant breast tissue. Some of the cell populations are suitable to be grown in culture and can be used successfully in a range of functional assays. Others are suitable for DNA, RNA or protein extraction. Currently, tumour epithelial cells are not suitable for culture assays.

Note: when providing cells, we can reserve samples of the same batch, so that should you require further vials these will be available.

Cell types available from:

normal: cosmetic reduction mammoplasty
prophylactic mastectomy:
genetic/family history
contralateral: tumour in other breast
DCIS surround: ≥5cm from DCIS edge
tumour: invasive carcinoma
adjacent to tumour: ≤2cm from
tumour edge
tumour surround: ≥5cm from tumour edge.

Sample types available:

live explants (typically 10 per vial)
mixed cell preparations
purified cell types for tissue culture
cell pellets from purified cell types
DNA, RNA extracts
cytoblocks from isolated cell populations.

Bespoke service

We have tissue and cell stocks available, but we are interested in discussing prospective preparations or collections as required. We can provide advice on:

  • the choice of cells for your studies
  • guidelines for the handling and culturing of each cell type
  • details of preferred growth media
  • comprehensive protocols for specific applications
  • planning your experiments and estimating costs for grant applications
  • availability of reserved cell batches.

Please email us at with any questions about our service.

Please see our costs page for costs of cells.

Cell application process

1. Fill in our Initial Enquiry Form outlining your requirements.

2. We aim to respond to all initial enquiries within 10 working days. A cell culture scientist will schedule a telephone or Skype call with you to discuss which cells you require. 
3.  If we can provide the cells you need, we will send you a Cell Application Form. 
4.  All applications for cells are reviewed by an independent Cell Access Committee to ensure the cells are used appropriately and for research that will have an impact for people affected by breast cancer. We aim to let you know if your application is successful within three weeks of submission.
5.  We require your institution to sign a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA), which will be sent to you before we release cells. Stock materials can be available within two weeks of successful application and signing of the MTA. Other cells may need to be expanded prior to delivery. 

Further information

  • Isolation of pure populations of epithelial and myoepithelial cells from the normal human mammary gland using immunomagnetic separation with Dynabeads. Gomm JJ, et al. Analytical Biochemistry. 1995; 226:91–99.
  • Separated human breast epithelial and myoepithelial cells have different growth factor requirements in vitro but can reconstitute normal breast lobuloalveolar structure. Gomm JJ, et al. J Cell Physiol. 1997; 171(1):11–19.
  • Novel multicellular organotypic models of normal and malignant breast: tools for dissecting the role of the microenvironment in breast cancer progression. Holliday DL, et al. Breast Cancer Res. 2009; 11(1):R3. 
  • Intrinsic genetic characteristics determine tumor-modifying capacity of fibroblasts: matrix metalloproteinase-3 5A/5A genotype enhances breast cancer cell invasion. Holliday DL, et al. Breast Cancer Res. 2007; 9(5):R67.
  • Primary breast myoepithelial cells exert an invasion-suppressor effect on breast cancer cells via paracrine down-regulation of MMP expression in fibroblasts and tumour cells. Jones JL, et al. J Pathol. 2003; 201(4):562–72.
  • Clinical and functional significance of loss of caveolin-1 expression in breast cancer-associated fibroblasts. Simpkins SA, et al. J Pathol. 2012 Aug;227(4):490-8.
  • Adding value to rare tissue samples donated to biobanks characterisation of breast tissue and primary cell cultures obtained from a female-to-male transgender patient. Millican-Slater et al. Cell Tissue Bank 2015; 16:1627–34