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Methods. 2012 Mar;56(3):432-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2012.03.003. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Establishment of human ovarian serous carcinomas cell lines in serum free media.

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  • 1Cancer Stem Cell Biology, Macrogenics, Inc., 1 Corporate Dr., South San Francisco, California, CA 94080, USA.


Ovarian cancers are the fifth leading cause of cancer death among US woman. The majority of ovarian cancers belong to a category of serous adenocarcinomas. This type of cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage of the disease. Surgical debulking, followed by chemotherapy is the current treatment. Half of all patients will die within 5 years of diagnosis of the disease. Poor survival may be due to disease progression as a consequence of development of drug resistance, cancer cell heterogeneity within the tumor, or the persistence of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSC) are defined as a minority cell type in the tumor, which retains the capacity, through asymmetric division, for self-renewal as well as differentiation into multiple cell types. Through this process, CSC can regenerate the entire tumor phenotype and subsequent metastases. Initial in vitro work in the area of solid tumor CSC biology has focused on the isolation and propagation of cells with CSC-like properties from breast and colon tumors. Breast and colon cell lines with CSC-like properties have been isolated and maintained in vitro for extended periods of time. The in vitro maintenance of these CSC requires growth in hormone-supplemented serum-free media and the use of matrix or growth as tumor spheres (Roberts, Ricci-Vitiani et al., Cammareri et al.). Based on the pioneering work generating breast and colon CSC, our lab has begun to develop methods for the establishment cell lines with CSC-like properties from additional solid tumors. In this article, we describe methods, using defined medium, which allow for the successful establishment of continuous cell cultures from a minority cell type within serous ovarian cancers. The cell lines established using these methods grow in serum-free hormone-supplemented medium either as a monolayer on a matrix, or as tumor spheres in suspension. These cells express markers previously reported for tumor stem cells, including CD44 and CD133, and form tumors that recreate the morphology of the original patient tumor when implanted in immune deficient mice. The introduction of this method will facilitate the expansion of ovarian cancer cells for investigating cancer stem cell biology as well as providing tools to aid in the development of new treatments for this deadly disease.

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