Imaging and analysis of 3D tumor spheroids enriched for a cancer stem cell phenotype.

The Department of Experimental Therapeutics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Journal of Biomolecular Screening (Impact Factor: 2.21). 08/2010; 15(7):820-9. DOI: 10.1177/1087057110376541
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Tumors that display a highly metastatic phenotype contain subpopulations of cells that display characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells. These cells exhibit the ability to undergo self-renewal; slowly replicate to retain a nucleoside analog label, leading to their definition as "label-retaining cells"; express specific surface markers such as CD44(+)/CD24(-/low) and CD133; and can give rise to cells of different lineages (i.e., they exhibit multipotency). Based on these characteristics, as well as their demonstrated ability to give rise to tumors in vivo, these cells have been defined as tumor-initiating cells (TICs), tumor-propagating cells, or cancer stem cells (CSCs). These cells are highly resistant to chemotherapeutic agents and radiation and are believed to be responsible for the development of both primary tumors and metastatic lesions at sites distant from the primary tumor. Established cancer cell lines contain CSCs, which can be propagated in vitro using defined conditions, to form 3D tumor spheroids. Because the vast majority of studies to identify cancer-associated genes and therapeutic targets use adherent cells grown in 2 dimensions on a plastic substrate, the multicellular composition of these 3D tumor spheroids presents both challenges and opportunities for their imaging and characterization. The authors describe approaches to image and analyze the properties of CSCs within 3D tumor spheroids, which can serve as the basis for defining the gene and protein signatures of CSCs and to develop therapeutic strategies that will effectively target this critically important population of cells that may be responsible for tumor progression.

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