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Lab Invest. 2014 Feb;94(2):208-21. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2013.141. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

Optimization and comprehensive characterization of a faithful tissue culture model of the benign and malignant human prostate.

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Department of Urology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.


Few preclinical models accurately depict normal human prostate tissue or primary prostate cancer (PCa). In vitro systems typically lack complex cellular interactions among structured prostatic epithelia and a stromal microenvironment, and genetic and molecular fidelity are concerns in both in vitro and in vivo models. 'Tissue slice cultures' (TSCs) provide realistic preclinical models of diverse tissues and organs, but have not been fully developed or widely utilized for prostate studies. Problems encountered include degeneration of differentiated secretory cells, basal cell hyperplasia, and poor survival of PCa. Here, we optimized, characterized, and applied a TSC model of primary human PCa and benign prostate tissue that overcomes many deficiencies of current in vitro models. Tissue cores from fresh prostatectomy specimens were precision-cut at 300 μm and incubated in a rotary culture apparatus. The ability of varied culture conditions to faithfully maintain benign and cancer cell and tissue structure and function over time was evaluated by immunohistological and biochemical assays. After optimization of the culture system, molecular and cellular responses to androgen ablation and to piperlongumine (PL), purported to specifically reduce androgen signaling in PCa, were investigated. Optimized culture conditions successfully maintained the structural and functional fidelity of both benign and PCa TSCs for 5 days. TSCs exhibited androgen dependence, appropriately undergoing ductal degeneration, reduced proliferation, and decreased prostate-specific antigen expression upon androgen ablation. Further, TSCs revealed cancer-specific reduction of androgen receptor and increased apoptosis upon treatment with PL, validating data from cell lines. We demonstrate a TSC model that authentically recapitulates the structural, cellular, and genetic characteristics of the benign and malignant human prostate, androgen dependence of the native tissue, and cancer-specific response to a potentially new therapeutic for PCa. The work described herein provides a basis for advancing the experimental utility of the TSC model.

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