Due to its high rate of mortality, lung cancer is a prominent area of research for scientists. Lung cancer is a complex disease with many subtypes resulting from factors such as family history, lifestyle and occupation-with each subtype requiring different treatment regimens. Thus, developing therapeutics for this disease requires vast research efforts.
The specific subtypes of the cancer must be paired to successful treatments, which can then be matched to individual patients. The American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) has responded to this initiative for personalized medicine by creating new drug screening and diagnostic test development tools, such as tumor cell panels based on genetic alteration, primary cells, gene-edited isogenic cell lines and cell line derivatives.
“Over the years, we have expanded our portfolio into the most diverse and unique collection of cancer cells to include thousands of human and animal cancer cell lines representing the diversity of the disease,” said Fang Tian, PhD, lead scientist at ATCC. “Our growing collection of lung cancer cell lines is now just shy of 100 lines. The cells in our collection were deposited by investigators who identified the important growth properties, bio-functions and molecular characteristics of these cells. ATCC is also adding to this information through internal R&D and application data. Further, ATCC cultures have appeared in thousands of peer-reviewed publications which form the basis for the discovery and development of scientific advances in the field of lung cancer research.”
In a recent development, scientists are being asked by grant reviewers and journal editors to provide controls for their experiments that represent normal in vivo physiology. ATCC has answered the call for relevant physiological controls for its lung cancer cells lines by delivering human primary airway cells. These cells display normal expression of tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes, indicating they would be ideal controls in any lung cancer experiment.
ATCC has established 3-D culture methods for its primary cells. These methods can be used to further replicate the in vivo situation of the airways of the lung, including pseudostratified epithelium, mucus secretion and cilia movement. Additionally, ATCC can provide donor specific characteristics or fill requests for specific gender, age, ethnicity and cause of death for its primary cells, enabling scientists to satisfy the current funding and publication requirements for rigor and transparency.
Making the Most of the Data
The value of tumor cell lines as research models and drug discovery tools is greatly enhanced when there is an understanding of the underlying genetic abnormalities that drive their phenotype.
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“ATCC has taken the first step for researchers by annotating many of our tumor cell lines with gene mutation data mined from the available online databases. We have then validated these genetic alterations in-house via next-generation sequencing,” continued Tian. “Using this data, we compiled panels of the most useful cell lines for cancer research.”
These tumor cell panels contain ten or more cell lines organized by the presence of various gene alterations relevant in lung cancer, such as the EGFR and KRAS panels. The mutational or amplification status of the cells in these panels have been thoroughly sequenced and validated by ATCC scientists.
“These panels are powerful tools that allow you to investigate carcinogenesis across cells with a spectrum of mutation states and to screen compounds or biologics to develop targeted therapeutics,” explained Dr. Tian.
Precise Gene Editing
In addition to compiling its cell lines into highly validated panels, ATCC has begun to take advantage of emerging precise genome editing technologies to create more reliable screening tools for cancer investigators. ATCC plans to use gene editing technology to develop a portfolio of new products and services to support basic and translational research.
A recent trend in lung cancer diagnostics is the creation of nucleic acid-based tests used in clinical testing. A critical element in developing these tests is highly pure, well-characterized nucleic acids such as genomic DNA, which are used as controls.