Shared Resource: Primary Tumor Cell Culture

February 16, 2016
By: Karen E. Butler , Director of Communications, DCI

Primary Tumor Cell Culture co-director Thomas Ribar observes a new cell line while Kris Wood, PhD, looks on.A developing CCSG Shared Resource, Primary Tumor Cell Culture (PTCC), is creating hundreds of new primary malignant and normal epithelial cell lines. These additional cell lines will provide for novel investigations, including those involving cancer subtypes.

“For many cancer researchers, the scarce availability of appropriate model systems for their studies is a significant limitation,” said Kris Wood, PhD, director of PTCC and assistant professor for the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. “Namely, the cell lines that most cancer researchers use today, while vital to our work, are limited with respect to the breadth of human tumors they represent.”

According to Wood, the lines have often been passaged for years, a process that may alter their genetic and behavioral properties. Commercially available cancer cell lines, which are most commonly used, were developed by introducing primary tumor cells into standard culture conditions, then selecting for proliferating variants. As a result, these lines are believed to possess limited genetic or functional heterogeneity relative to their parental tumor counterparts (that is, intratumoral diversity) while also commonly harboring de novo features emerging from long-term selection for in vitro culture conditions. Prominent tumor subtypes are poorly compatible with these derivation conditions, leading to their poor representation in available cell lines.

“Our shared resource facility will help to overcome these constraints by creating a large number of cell lines derived directly form cancer patients at Duke,” Wood continued. “These lines, garnered using the ‘conditional reprogramming’ method, will generate hundreds of diverse, low passage, primary cancer cell lines for use by DCI researchers and others.”

Services provided by the Primary Tumor Cell Culture Shared Resource include:

  • Access to primary, early passage, malignant and normal epithelial cell lines from lung, breast, prostate, pancreas, colorectal, cervical and ovarian, bladder and renal or other epithelial cancer types.
  • The generation of primary malignant and normal epithelial cell lines for special needs by researchers at DCI and other Duke Units.
  • Consultations regarding methods for culturing and experimenting with primary cell lines.
  • Access to feeder cells and conditional media.

Primary Tumor Cell Culture is equipped with standard cell culture and storage equipment, such as biosafety cabinets, CO2 incubators, a light microscope, a Coulter cell counter/analyzer, refrigerators, liquid nitrogen cryopreservation tanks, a centrifuge, freezers (-20°C and -80°C) and other common cell culture equipment. The Primary Tumor Cell Culture shared resource is available to Duke investigators. Should the demand for facility services exceed current capacity, DCI members receive first priority.

“Our cell lines require special cell culture conditions,” Wood said. “We’re here to provide instruction and reagents necessary to culture these lines in any laboratory on campus. Investigators should feel free to reach out to us any time.”

Interested researchers can contact facility personnel to initiate PTCC activity. The Primary Tumor Cell Culture is run on a fee for service cost recovery system. For information on fees, please contact Thomas Ribar, co-director.