Reliable tools for investigating ovarian cancer initiation and progression are urgently needed. While the use of ovarian cancer cell lines remains a valuable tool for understanding ovarian cancer, their use has many limitations. These include the lack of heterogeneity and the plethora of genetic alterations associated with extended in vitro passaging. Here we describe a method that allows for rapid establishment of primary ovarian cancer cells form solid clinical specimens collected at the time of surgery. The method consists of subjecting clinical specimens to enzymatic digestion for 30 min. The isolated cell suspension is allowed to grow and can be used for downstream application including drug screening. The advantage of primary ovarian cancer cell lines over established ovarian cancer cell lines is that they are representative of the original specific clinical specimens they are derived from and can be derived from different sites whether primary or metastatic ovarian cancer.
14 Related JoVE Articles!
In vitro Enrichment of Ovarian Cancer Tumor-initiating Cells
Institutions: National Cancer Institute.
Evidence suggests that small subpopulations of tumor cells maintain a unique self-renewing and differentiation capacity and may be responsible for tumor initiation and/or relapse. Clarifying the mechanisms by which these tumor-initiating cells (TICs) support tumor formation and progression could lead to the development of clinically favorable therapies. Ovarian cancer is a heterogeneous and highly recurrent disease. Recent studies suggest TICs may play an important role in disease biology. We have identified culture conditions that enrich for TICs from ovarian cancer cell lines. Growing either adherent cells or non-adherent ‘floater’ cells in a low attachment plate with serum free media in the presence of growth factors supports the propagation of ovarian cancer TICs with stem cell markers (CD133 and ALDH activity) and increased tumorigenicity without the need to physically separate the TICs from other cell types within the culture. Although the presence of floater cells is not common for all cell lines, this population of cells with innate low adherence may have high tumorigenic potential.Compared to adherent cells grown in the presence of serum, TICs readily form spheres, are significantly more tumorigenic in mice, and express putative stem cell markers. The conditions are easy to establish in a timely manner and can be used to study signaling pathways important for maintaining stem characteristics, and to identify drugs or combinations of drugs targeting TICs. The culture conditions described herein are applicable for a variety of ovarian cancer cells of epithelial origin and will be critical in providing new information about the role of TICs in tumor initiation, progression, and relapse.
Medicine, Issue 96, Ovarian cancer, tumor-initiating cells, cancer stem cell, tumorigenicity, spheroid, mouse, gynecological cancer
Enrichment for Chemoresistant Ovarian Cancer Stem Cells from Human Cell Lines
Institutions: Indiana University School of Medicine.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are defined as a subset of slow cycling and undifferentiated cells that divide asymmetrically to generate highly proliferative, invasive, and chemoresistant tumor cells. Therefore, CSCs are an attractive population of cells to target therapeutically. CSCs are predicted to contribute to a number of types of malignancies including those in the blood, brain, lung, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, and ovary. Isolating and enriching a tumor cell population for CSCs will enable researchers to study the properties, genetics, and therapeutic response of CSCs. We generated a protocol that reproducibly enriches for ovarian cancer CSCs from ovarian cancer cell lines (SKOV3 and OVCA429). Cell lines are treated with 20 µM cisplatin for 3 days. Surviving cells are isolated and cultured in a serum-free stem cell media containing cytokines and growth factors. We demonstrate an enrichment of these purified CSCs by analyzing the isolated cells for known stem cell markers Oct4, Nanog, and Prom1 (CD133) and cell surface expression of CD177 and CD133. The CSCs exhibit increased chemoresistance. This method for isolation of CSCs is a useful tool for studying the role of CSCs in chemoresistance and tumor relapse.
Medicine, Issue 91, cancer stem cells, stem cell markers, ovarian cancer, chemoresistance, cisplatin, cancer progression
In vitro Mesothelial Clearance Assay that Models the Early Steps of Ovarian Cancer Metastasis
Institutions: Harvard Medical School.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States1
. Despite a positive initial response to therapies, 70 to 90 percent of women with ovarian cancer develop new metastases, and the recurrence is often fatal2
. It is, therefore, necessary to understand how secondary metastases arise in order to develop better treatments for intermediate and late stage ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer metastasis occurs when malignant cells detach from the primary tumor site and disseminate throughout the peritoneal cavity. The disseminated cells can form multicellular clusters, or spheroids, that will either remain unattached, or implant onto organs within the peritoneal cavity3
(Figure 1, Movie 1).
All of the organs within the peritoneal cavity are lined with a single, continuous, layer of mesothelial cells4-6
(Figure 2). However, mesothelial cells are absent from underneath peritoneal tumor masses, as revealed by electron micrograph studies of excised human tumor tissue sections3,5-7
(Figure 2). This suggests that mesothelial cells are excluded from underneath the tumor mass by an unknown process.
Previous in vitro
experiments demonstrated that primary ovarian cancer cells attach more efficiently to extracellular matrix than to mesothelial cells8
, and more recent studies showed that primary peritoneal mesothelial cells actually provide a barrier to ovarian cancer cell adhesion and invasion (as compared to adhesion and invasion on substrates that were not covered with mesothelial cells)9,10
. This would suggest that mesothelial cells act as a barrier against ovarian cancer metastasis. The cellular and molecular mechanisms by which ovarian cancer cells breach this barrier, and exclude the mesothelium have, until recently, remained unknown.
Here we describe the methodology for an in vitro
assay that models the interaction between ovarian cancer cell spheroids and mesothelial cells in vivo
(Figure 3, Movie 2). Our protocol was adapted from previously described methods for analyzing ovarian tumor cell interactions with mesothelial monolayers8-16
, and was first described in a report showing that ovarian tumor cells utilize an integrin –dependent activation of myosin and traction force to promote the exclusion of the mesothelial cells from under a tumor spheroid17
. This model takes advantage of time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to monitor the two cell populations in real time, providing spatial and temporal information on the interaction. The ovarian cancer cells express red fluorescent protein (RFP) while the mesothelial cells express green fluorescent protein (GFP). RFP-expressing ovarian cancer cell spheroids attach to the GFP-expressing mesothelial monolayer. The spheroids spread, invade, and force the mesothelial cells aside creating a hole in the monolayer. This hole is visualized as the negative space (black) in the GFP image. The area of the hole can then be measured to quantitatively analyze differences in clearance activity between control and experimental populations of ovarian cancer and/ or mesothelial cells. This assay requires only a small number of ovarian cancer cells (100 cells per spheroid X 20-30 spheroids per condition), so it is feasible to perform this assay using precious primary tumor cell samples. Furthermore, this assay can be easily adapted for high throughput screening.
Medicine, Issue 60, Ovarian Cancer, Metastasis, In vitro Model, Mesothelial, Spheroid
Heterotypic Three-dimensional In Vitro Modeling of Stromal-Epithelial Interactions During Ovarian Cancer Initiation and Progression
Institutions: University of Southern California, University College London.
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOCs) are the leading cause of death from gynecological malignancy in Western societies. Despite advances in surgical treatments and improved platinum-based chemotherapies, there has been little improvement in EOC survival rates for more than four decades 1,2
. Whilst stage I tumors have 5-year survival rates >85%, survival rates for stage III/IV disease are <40%. Thus, the high rates of mortality for EOC could be significantly decreased if tumors were detected at earlier, more treatable, stages 3-5
. At present, the molecular genetic and biological basis of early stage disease development is poorly understood. More specifically, little is known about the role of the microenvironment during tumor initiation; but known risk factors for EOCs (e.g.
age and parity) suggest that the microenvironment plays a key role in the early genesis of EOCs. We therefore developed three-dimensional heterotypic models of both the normal ovary and of early stage ovarian cancers. For the normal ovary, we co-cultured normal ovarian surface epithelial (IOSE) and normal stromal fibroblast (INOF) cells, immortalized by retrovrial transduction of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase holoenzyme (hTERT
) to extend the lifespan of these cells in culture. To model the earliest stages of ovarian epithelial cell transformation, overexpression of the CMYC
oncogene in IOSE cells, again co-cultured with INOF cells. These heterotypic models were used to investigate the effects of aging and senescence on the transformation and invasion of epithelial cells. Here we describe the methodological steps in development of these three-dimensional model; these methodologies aren't specific to the development of normal ovary and ovarian cancer tissues, and could be used to study other tissue types where stromal and epithelial cell interactions are a fundamental aspect of the tissue maintenance and disease development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Tissue Engineering, three-dimensional cultures, stromal-epithelial interactions, epithelial ovarian cancer, ovarian surface epithelium, ovarian fibroblasts, tumor initiation
Assessment of Ovarian Cancer Spheroid Attachment and Invasion of Mesothelial Cells in Real Time
Institutions: MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, Monash University.
Ovarian cancers metastasize by shedding into the peritoneal fluid and dispersing to distal sites within the peritoneum. Monolayer cultures do not accurately model the behaviors of cancer cells within a nonadherent environment, as cancer cells inherently aggregate into multicellular structures which contribute to the metastatic process by attaching to and invading the peritoneal lining to form secondary tumors. To model this important stage of ovarian cancer metastasis, multicellular aggregates, or spheroids, can be generated from established ovarian cancer cell lines maintained under nonadherent conditions. To mimic the peritoneal microenvironment encountered by tumor cells in vivo
, a spheroid-mesothelial co-culture model was established in which preformed spheroids are plated on top of a human mesothelial cell monolayer, formed over an extracellular matrix barrier. Methods were then developed using a real-time cell analyzer to conduct quantitative real time measurements of the invasive capacity of different ovarian cancer cell lines grown as spheroids. This approach allows for the continuous measurement of invasion over long periods of time, which has several advantages over traditional endpoint assays and more laborious real time microscopy image analyses. In short, this method enables a rapid, determination of factors which regulate the interactions between ovarian cancer spheroid cells invading through mesothelial and matrix barriers over time.
Medicine, Issue 87, Ovarian cancer, metastasis, invasion, mesothelial cells, spheroids, real time analysis
Evaluation of Stem Cell Properties in Human Ovarian Carcinoma Cells Using Multi and Single Cell-based Spheres Assays
Institutions: University Hospital Basel, University Hospital Tübingen.
Years of research indicates that ovarian cancers harbor a heterogeneous mixture of cells including a subpopulation of so-called “cancer stem cells” (CSCs) responsible for tumor initiation, maintenance and relapse following conventional chemotherapies. Identification of ovarian CSCs is therefore an important goal. A commonly used method to assess CSC potential in vitro
is the spheres assay in which cells are plated under non-adherent culture conditions in serum-free medium supplemented with growth factors and sphere formation is scored after a few days. Here, we review currently available protocols for human ovarian cancer spheres assays and perform a side-by-side analysis between commonly used multi cell-based assays and a more accurate system based on single cell plating. Our results indicate that both multi cell-based as well as single cell-based spheres assays can be used to investigate sphere formation in vitro
. The more laborious and expensive single cell-based assays are more suitable for functional assessment of individual cells and lead to overall more accurate results while multi cell-based assays can be strongly influenced by the density of plated cells and require titration experiments upfront. Methylcellulose supplementation to multi cell-based assays can be effectively used to reduce mechanical artifacts.
Medicine, Issue 95, Cancer stem cells, spheres assay, ovarian, single cell, SOX2, in vitro assay, ovarian carcinoma
Cytosolic Calcium Measurements in Renal Epithelial Cells by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: University of Witten/Herdecke, University of Witten/Herdecke.
A variety of cellular processes, both physiological and pathophysiological, require or are governed by calcium, including exocytosis, mitochondrial function, cell death, cell metabolism and cell migration to name but a few. Cytosolic calcium is normally maintained at low nanomolar concentrations; rather it is found in high micromolar to millimolar concentrations in the endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondrial matrix and the extracellular compartment. Upon stimulation, a transient increase in cytosolic calcium serves to signal downstream events. Detecting changes in cytosolic calcium is normally performed using a live cell imaging set up with calcium binding dyes that exhibit either an increase in fluorescence intensity or a shift in the emission wavelength upon calcium binding. However, a live cell imaging set up is not freely accessible to all researchers. Alternative detection methods have been optimized for immunological cells with flow cytometry and for non-immunological adherent cells with a fluorescence microplate reader. Here, we describe an optimized, simple method for detecting changes in epithelial cells with flow cytometry using a single wavelength calcium binding dye. Adherent renal proximal tubule epithelial cells, which are normally difficult to load with dyes, were loaded with a fluorescent cell permeable calcium binding dye in the presence of probenecid, brought into suspension and calcium signals were monitored before and after addition of thapsigargin, tunicamycin and ionomycin.
Cellular Biology, Issue 92, Kidney, FACS, second messenger, proximal tubule, calcium indicators, probenecid, endoplasmic reticulum, ionomycin
Murine Model for Non-invasive Imaging to Detect and Monitor Ovarian Cancer Recurrence
Institutions: Yale University School of Medicine, NatureMost Laboratories, Bruker Preclinical Imaging.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the United States. Although patients initially respond to the current standard of care consisting of surgical debulking and combination chemotherapy consisting of platinum and taxane compounds, almost 90% of patients recur within a few years. In these patients the development of chemoresistant disease limits the efficacy of currently available chemotherapy agents and therefore contributes to the high mortality. To discover novel therapy options that can target recurrent disease, appropriate animal models that closely mimic the clinical profile of patients with recurrent ovarian cancer are required. The challenge in monitoring intra-peritoneal (i.p.) disease limits the use of i.p. models and thus most xenografts are established subcutaneously. We have developed a sensitive optical imaging platform that allows the detection and anatomical location of i.p. tumor mass. The platform includes the use of optical reporters that extend from the visible light range to near infrared, which in combination with 2-dimensional X-ray co-registration can provide anatomical location of molecular signals. Detection is significantly improved by the use of a rotation system that drives the animal to multiple angular positions for 360 degree imaging, allowing the identification of tumors that are not visible in single orientation. This platform provides a unique model to non-invasively monitor tumor growth and evaluate the efficacy of new therapies for the prevention or treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer.
Cancer Biology, Issue 93, ovarian cancer, recurrence, in vivo imaging, tumor burden, cancer stem cells, chemotherapy
In vivo Imaging and Therapeutic Treatments in an Orthotopic Mouse Model of Ovarian Cancer
Institutions: Women's Cancer Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Human cancer and response to therapy is better represented in orthotopic animal models. This paper describes the development of an orthotopic mouse model of ovarian cancer, treatment of cancer via oral delivery of drugs, and monitoring of tumor cell behavior in response to drug treatment in real time using in vivo
imaging system. In this orthotopic model, ovarian tumor cells expressing luciferase are applied topically by injecting them directly into the mouse bursa where each ovary is enclosed. Upon injection of D-luciferin, a substrate of firefly luciferase, luciferase-expressing cells generate bioluminescence signals. This signal is detected by the in vivo
imaging system and allows for a non-invasive means of monitoring tumor growth, distribution, and regression in individual animals. Drug administration via oral gavage allows for a maximum dosing volume of 10 mL/kg body weight to be delivered directly to the stomach and closely resembles delivery of drugs in clinical treatments. Therefore, techniques described here, development of an orthotopic mouse model of ovarian cancer, oral delivery of drugs, and in vivo
imaging, are useful for better understanding of human ovarian cancer and treatment and will improve targeting this disease.
Cellular Biology, Issue 42, Ovarian cancer, orthotopic mouse model, intrabursal injection, oral gavage, bioluminescence, in vivo imaging
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Alginate Hydrogels for Three-Dimensional Organ Culture of Ovaries and Oviducts
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women and has a 63% mortality rate in the United States1
. The cell type of origin for ovarian cancers is still in question and might be either the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) or the distal epithelium of the fallopian tube fimbriae2,3
. Culturing the normal cells as a primary culture in vitro will enable scientists to model specific changes that might lead to ovarian cancer in the distinct epithelium, thereby definitively determining the cell type of origin. This will allow development of more accurate biomarkers, animal models with tissue-specific gene changes, and better prevention strategies targeted to this disease.
Maintaining normal cells in alginate hydrogels promotes short term in vitro culture of cells in their three-dimensional context and permits introduction of plasmid DNA, siRNA, and small molecules. By culturing organs in pieces that are derived from strategic cuts using a scalpel, several cultures from a single organ can be generated, increasing the number of experiments from a single animal. These cuts model aspects of ovulation leading to proliferation of the OSE, which is associated with ovarian cancer formation. Cell types such as the OSE that do not grow well on plastic surfaces can be cultured using this method and facilitate investigation into normal cellular processes or the earliest events in cancer formation4
Alginate hydrogels can be used to support the growth of many types of tissues5
. Alginate is a linear polysaccharide composed of repeating units of β-D-mannuronic acid and α-L-guluronic acid that can be crosslinked with calcium ions, resulting in a gentle gelling action that does not damage tissues6,7
. Like other three-dimensional cell culture matrices such as Matrigel, alginate provides mechanical support for tissues; however, proteins are not reactive with the alginate matrix, and therefore alginate functions as a synthetic extracellular matrix that does not initiate cell signaling5
. The alginate hydrogel floats in standard cell culture medium and supports the architecture of the tissue growth in vitro
A method is presented for the preparation, separation, and embedding of ovarian and oviductal organ pieces into alginate hydrogels, which can be maintained in culture for up to two weeks. The enzymatic release of cells for analysis of proteins and RNA samples from the organ culture is also described. Finally, the growth of primary cell types is possible without genetic immortalization from mice and permits investigators to use knockout and transgenic mice.
Bioengineering, Issue 52, alginate hydrogel, ovarian organ culture, oviductal organ culture, three-dimensional, primary cell
Ex Vivo Culture of Primary Human Fallopian Tube Epithelial Cells
Institutions: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is a leading cause of female cancer mortality in the United States. In contrast to other women-specific cancers, like breast and uterine carcinomas, where death rates have fallen in recent years, ovarian cancer cure rates have remained relatively unchanged over the past two decades 1
. This is largely due to the lack of appropriate screening tools for detection of early stage disease where surgery and chemotherapy are most effective 2, 3
. As a result, most patients present with advanced stage disease and diffuse abdominal involvement. This is further complicated by the fact that ovarian cancer is a heterogeneous disease with multiple histologic subtypes 4, 5
. Serous ovarian carcinoma (SOC) is the most common and aggressive subtype and the form most often associated with mutations in the BRCA
genes. Current experimental models in this field involve the use of cancer cell lines and mouse models to better understand the initiating genetic events and pathogenesis of disease 6, 7
. Recently, the fallopian tube has emerged as a novel site for the origin of SOC, with the fallopian tube (FT) secretory epithelial cell (FTSEC) as the proposed cell of origin 8, 9
. There are currently no cell lines or culture systems available to study the FT epithelium or the FTSEC. Here we describe a novel ex vivo
culture system where primary human FT epithelial cells are cultured in a manner that preserves their architecture, polarity, immunophenotype, and response to physiologic and genotoxic stressors. This ex vivo
model provides a useful tool for the study of SOC, allowing a better understanding of how tumors can arise from this tissue, and the mechanisms involved in tumor initiation and progression.
Cellular Biology, Issue 51, Primary human epithelial cells, ovarian cancer, serous, ex-vivo, cell biology, fallopian tube, fimbria
An Orthotopic Model of Serous Ovarian Cancer in Immunocompetent Mice for in vivo Tumor Imaging and Monitoring of Tumor Immune Responses
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania-School of Medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Ovarian cancer is generally diagnosed at an advanced stage where the case/fatality ratio is high and thus remains the most lethal of all gynecologic malignancies among US women 1,2,3
. Serous tumors are the most widespread forms of ovarian cancer and 4,5
the Tg-MISIIR-TAg transgenic represents the only mouse model that spontaneously develops this type of tumors. Tg-MISIIR-TAg mice express SV40 transforming region under control of the Mullerian Inhibitory Substance type II Receptor (MISIIR) gene promoter 6
. Additional transgenic lines have been identified that express the SV40 TAg transgene, but do not develop ovarian tumors. Non-tumor prone mice exhibit typical lifespan for C57Bl/6 mice and are fertile. These mice can be used as syngeneic allograft recipients for tumor cells isolated from Tg-MISIIR-TAg-DR26 mice.
Although tumor imaging is possible 7
, early detection of deep tumors is challenging in small living animals. To enable preclinical studies in an immunologically intact animal model for serous ovarian cancer, we describe a syngeneic mouse model for this type of ovarian cancer that permits in vivo
imaging, studies of the tumor microenvironment and tumor immune responses.
We first derived a TAg+ mouse cancer cell line (MOV1) from a spontaneous ovarian tumor harvested in a 26 week-old DR26 Tg-MISIIR-TAg female. Then, we stably transduced MOV1 cells with TurboFP635 Lentivirus mammalian vector that encodes Katushka, a far-red mutant of the red fluorescent protein from sea anemone Entacmaea quadricolor
with excitation/emission maxima at 588/635 nm 8,9,10
. We orthotopically implanted MOV1Kat
in the ovary 11,12,13,14
of non-tumor prone Tg-MISIIR-TAg female mice. Tumor progression was followed by in vivo
optical imaging and tumor microenvironment was analyzed by immunohistochemistry.
Orthotopically implanted MOV1Kat
cells developed serous ovarian tumors. MOV1Kat
tumors could be visualized by in vivo
imaging up to three weeks after implantation (fig. 1) and were infiltrated with leukocytes, as observed in human ovarian cancers 15
We describe an orthotopic model of ovarian cancer suitable for in vivo
imaging of early tumors due to the high pH-stability and photostability of Katushka in deep tissues. We propose the use of this novel syngeneic model of serous ovarian cancer for in vivo
imaging studies and monitoring of tumor immune responses and immunotherapies.
Immunology, Issue 45, Ovarian cancer, syngeneic, orthotopic, katushka (TurboFP635), in vivo imaging, immunocompetent mouse model of ovarian cancer, deep tumors
Studying Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cell Characteristics for Developing New Treatment Strategies
Institutions: Spanish National Cancer Research Center, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), Queen Mary University of London.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) contains a subset of exclusively tumorigenic cancer stem cells (CSCs) which have been shown to drive tumor initiation, metastasis and resistance to radio- and chemotherapy. Here we describe a specific methodology for culturing primary human pancreatic CSCs as tumor spheres in anchorage-independent conditions. Cells are grown in serum-free, non-adherent conditions in order to enrich for CSCs while their more differentiated progenies do not survive and proliferate during the initial phase following seeding of single cells. This assay can be used to estimate the percentage of CSCs present in a population of tumor cells. Both size (which can range from 35 to 250 micrometers) and number of tumor spheres formed represents CSC activity harbored in either bulk populations of cultured cancer cells or freshly harvested and digested tumors 1,2
. Using this assay, we recently found that metformin selectively ablates pancreatic CSCs; a finding that was subsequently further corroborated by demonstrating diminished expression of pluripotency-associated genes/surface markers and reduced in vivo
tumorigenicity of metformin-treated cells. As the final step for preclinical development we treated mice bearing established tumors with metformin and found significantly prolonged survival. Clinical studies testing the use of metformin in patients with PDAC are currently underway (e.g.,
NCT01210911, NCT01167738, and NCT01488552). Mechanistically, we found that metformin induces a fatal energy crisis in CSCs by enhancing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and reducing mitochondrial transmembrane potential. In contrast, non-CSCs were not eliminated by metformin treatment, but rather underwent reversible cell cycle arrest. Therefore, our study serves as a successful example for the potential of in vitro
sphere formation as a screening tool to identify compounds that potentially target CSCs, but this technique will require further in vitro
and in vivo
validation to eliminate false discoveries.
Medicine, Issue 100, Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, cancer stem cells, spheres, metformin (met), metabolism