Cancer Stem Cell Enriched Culture: Developing Model for a New Target of Cancer Therapy

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CSC targeted therapy process (image: personal document)
CSC targeted therapy process (image: personal document)

Breast cancer has the highest incident in female amongst other malignancy. In 2018, breast cancer comprises 16,7% of malignancy case in both gender, and 30,9% in female. The incidence of breast cancer worldwide in 2018 was 42,1 cases per 100.000 populations, with the second highest mortality after lung cancer.

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical excision of tumor are the current options available for treating breast cancer, however none of the three yields definite curative outcome. Therefore, researchers all around the globe are still on the hunt for a breakthrough in breast cancer management.

The entities called Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) has been identified to exist inside tumor tissue and has been shown to contribute in the disease’s persistence and resistance to treatment. Discovery of CSCs brought up new potential target for breast cancer therapy, and possibly for other type of cancer.

Before new treatments are brought to clinical trial stage, the treatment must pass pre-clinical study in biomedical laboratory. In the milestone of CSC targeted therapy development, finding a method for securing CSCs from a cancer cell line culture stand as one of the early step.

A focused research team from the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology of Internal Medicine of Faculty of Medicine Airlangga University led by Prof. Dr. Ami Ashariati, dr. SpPD-KHOM, FINASIM had conducted a study to take a closer look into CSCs in breast cancer. The cell line named Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 (MCF-7), a luminal-A breast cancer cell line, was used in this study.

The core of the process of obtaining CSC enriched culture was induction of dedifferentiation: reversing the differentiation of the cell to take the cell back to their undifferentiated state, recovering more stemness property. Induction of dedifferentiation in MCF-7 culture was done through medium serum starvation, by reducing the concentration of serum used in the cell culture medium, and adding specific growth factors supplements. CSC population in the culture was identified through immunological biomarker.

Biomarker pattern shown in the culture was consistent with previous study of CSC. Altered morphology of the cell and nucleus, compared with the pre-treated MCF-7 culture were also observed. Adherent and non-adherent cell populations underwent separate analysis, and were shown to exhibit distinct characteristics. In both populations, cells were separated as mammosphere forming cells and single cells, which also showed different pattern of biomarker expression.

The study showed that CSC enriched culture can be obtained through dedifferentiation process of cell line, and unraveled multiple cell population with potential unique properties. The study team hoped that the method presented in this study could be used as a way to develop model for studying the biology of CSC, as well as their respond to new treatment candidates.

This study has been published in The Indonesian Biomedical Journal and can be accessed through

Author: Winona May Hendrata

Editor: Feri Fenoria

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Media komunikasi dan informasi seputar kampus Universitas Airlangga (Unair).

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