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Oncotarget. 2017 Aug 11;8(40):69185-69197. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20193. eCollection 2017 Sep 15.

Culture conditions defining glioblastoma cells behavior: what is the impact for novel discoveries?

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Department of Biophysics and Center of Biotechnology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, RS-Brazil.
Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
Contributed equally


In cancer research, the use of established cell lines has gradually been replaced by primary cell cultures due to their better representation of in vivo cancer cell behaviors. However, a major challenge with primary culture involves the finding of growth conditions that minimize alterations in the biological state of the cells. To ensure reproducibility and translational potentials for research findings, culture conditions need to be chosen so that the cell population in culture best mimics tumor cells in vivo. Glioblastoma (GBM) is one of the most aggressive and heterogeneous tumor types and the GBM research field would certainly benefit from culture conditions that could maintain the original plethora of phenotype of the cells. Here, we review culture media and supplementation options for GBM cultures, the rationale behind their use, and how much those choices affect drug-screening outcomes. We provide an overview of 120 papers that use primary GBM cultures and discuss the current predominant conditions. We also show important primary research data indicating that "mis-cultured" glioma cells can acquire unnatural drug sensitivity, which would have devastating effects for clinical translations. Finally, we propose the concurrent test of four culture conditions to minimize the loss of cell coverage in culture.


culture conditions; culture media; drug discovery; glioblastoma; heterogeneity

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