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Jun 16, 2009

Researchers Use Malignant Pleural Effusion as Model for Lung Cancer

  • Malignant pleural effusions may be useful as a model to study lung cancer progression and lung cancer stem cells, according to researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    The study appears in the June issue of PLoS One in a paper titled, “The Malignant Pleural Effusion as a Model to Investigate Intratumoral Heterogeneity in Lung Cancer.”

    “In this primary culture model, we have been able to provide proof-of-concept that candidate lung cancer stem cells are present, that candidate lung cancer stem cells can be maintained over time in this environment, and we can live sort candidate lung cancer stem cells from these primary cultures to evaluate their phenotype in various bioassays,” the authors write.

    The team previously found that culturing lung cancer cells from tumors in Petri dishes did not work well. The cells that grew were not representative of the heterogeneous cells found in a tumor.

    The scientists thus sought to grow cells in an environment that was as close as possible to that in which the tumor grows. They collected specimens from patients with malignant pleural effusions, a condition in which an abnormal amount of fluid collects between the thin layers of tissue lining the outside of the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.

    “Using the same environment the tumors were extracted from allows us to grow a much broader variety of tumor cells,” explains Raj Batra, an associate professor of medicine and a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist. “There’s much more heterogeneity.”

    The researchers then looked for both cell-surface and epigenetic markers associated with cancer stem cells and found signatures for most of those markers in the cells they grew. The investigators report being successful seven out of seven times in growing heterogeneous cell cultures from seven different patient specimens. Each of the seven specimens had molecular features indicative of cancer stem cells.

    “We feel we were able to do this because we used not just the tumor cells but also the cells that accompany the tumor cells and the fluid they are living and growing in,” Batra notes. “This will allow us to develop a more representative model of lung cancer.”



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