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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 2;107(44):18874-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012667107. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Mullerian inhibiting substance preferentially inhibits stem/progenitors in human ovarian cancer cell lines compared with chemotherapeutics.

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Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Cancer stem cells are proposed to be tumor-initiating cells capable of tumorigenesis, recurrence, metastasis, and drug resistance, and, like somatic stem cells, are thought to be capable of unlimited self-renewal and, when stimulated, proliferation and differentiation. Here we select cells by expression of a panel of markers to enrich for a population with stem cell-like characteristics. A panel of eight was initially selected from 95 human cell surface antigens as each was shared among human ovarian primary cancers, ovarian cancer cell lines, and normal fimbria. A total of 150 combinations of markers were reduced to a panel of three--CD44, CD24, and Epcam--which selected, in three ovarian cancer cell lines, those cells which best formed colonies. Cells expressing CD44, CD24, and Epcam exhibited stem cell characteristics of shorter tumor-free intervals in vivo after limiting dilution, and enhanced migration in invasion assays in vitro. Also, doxorubicin, cisplatin, and paclitaxel increased this enriched population which, conversely, was significantly inhibited by Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) or the MIS mimetic SP600125. These findings demonstrate that flow cytometry can be used to detect a population which shows differential drug sensitivity, and imply that treatment of patients can be individualized to target both stem/progenitor cell enriched and nonenriched subpopulations. The findings also suggest that this population, amenable to isolation by flow cytometry, can be used to screen for novel treatment paradigms, including biologic agents such as MIS, which will improve outcomes for patients with ovarian cancer.

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