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Cancer Res. 1985 Jun;45(6):2913-23.

Establishment and identification of small cell lung cancer cell lines having classic and variant features.


Using a chemically defined medium containing hydrocortisone, insulin, transferrin, 17 beta-estradiol and selenium, with or without serum supplementation (2.5% v/v), continuous cell lines can be established from 72% of all fresh biopsy specimens of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) containing tumor cells. No differences were observed in the rate of establishing cell lines from newly diagnosed untreated patients, or from patients who have relapsed from prior therapy, or from a variety of different organ sites. Biochemical characterization of 50 SCLC cell lines for the expression of L-dopa decarboxylase; bombesin-like immunoreactivity; neuron-specific enolase, and the brain isozyme of creatine kinase, revealed that SCLC cell lines can be subdivided into two distinct classes: classic SCLC cell lines (35 lines), which express elevated levels of all four biomarkers; and variant SCLC cell lines (15 lines) which have undetectable levels of L-dopa-decarboxylase and bombesin-like immunoreactivity, but continue to express neuron-specific enolase and the brain isozyme of creatine kinase. The presence of the latter two markers distinguishes variant lines fron non-SCLC cell lines. In addition, four distinct classes were identified morphologically. The biomedical differences among established SCLC cell lines may account for the differences in response rates to cytotoxic therapy observed in newly diagnosed SCLC patients. A prospective study of biomarker characterization of SCLC tumors will determine if clinical differences exist between classic and variant SCLC tumors.

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