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Stanford researchers first to turn normal cells into 3-D cancers in tissue culture dishes
Date:11/21/2010

STANFORD, Calif. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have successfully transformed normal human tissue into three-dimensional cancers in a tissue culture dish for the first time. Watching how the cells behave as they divide and invade surrounding tissue will help physicians better understand how human cancers act in the body. The new technique also provides a way to quickly and cheaply test anti-cancer drugs without requiring laboratory animals.

"Studies of this type, which used to take months in animal models, can now occur on a time scale of days," said Paul Khavari, MD, PhD, the Carl J. Herzog Professor and chair of dermatology at Stanford. The researchers focused on epithelial cells, which line the surfaces and cavities of the body. Cancers of epithelial cells make up approximately 90 percent of all human cancers.

The study of three-dimensional tumors also avoids the use of cancer cell lines, which are typically grown in single layers and may have accumulated genetic changes that don't accurately reflect what happens in humans.

Khavari, who is also a member of the Stanford Cancer Center and serves as dermatology service chief at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, is the senior author of the research, which will be published online Nov. 21 in Nature Medicine. Todd Ridky, MD, PhD, a former postdoctoral scholar in Khavari's laboratory, is the first author. Ridky is now an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The researchers worked with normal human epithelial cells gathered from surgical samples from skin, cervix, esophagus and throat. Unlike cancer cell lines, some of which have been grown in laboratories around the world for years, these primary cells were minimally cultured.

To make these normal cells cancerous, the researchers used viruses to tweak just two genetic pathways known to be involved in uncontrolled growth. One drives cells forward in the cell cy
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Contact: Krista Conger
kristac@stanford.edu
650-725-5371
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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