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Designing A Model With The Primary Culture Of Human Lung Cancer Cells

According to 2018 research published in Translational lung cancer research, 1.6 million new diagnoses and 1.4 million deaths were due to lung cancer in 2008 that jumped up to 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2012! According to gender, human lung cancer ranks second with breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. The 5-year relative survival rate for advanced cases is 5%.  Another fact of this disease is that it is the 7th leading cause of cancer deaths in non-smokers! The incidence of the disease is rising across the world with the deaths increasing due to lung cancer in women: more than that of breast cancer in 2017!

The properties of the tumor cells and the response in a patient decide the course of metastasis in case of lung cancer.  Research published in 2010 in Cancer research shows the presence of multiple cell populations within the same tumor in a single patient. These invasive and metastatic abilities populations vary across this single tumor. This calls for examining a single patient as a unique case. Hence, designing personalized approaches to address the disease effectively is required.

To study the properties of lung cancer, the use of immortalized Cancer Cell Line can present issues as they cannot be representative of the in vivo heterogeneous cancer. This is due to the transformation and repeated passaging. In order to effectively transfer the study findings from the bench to the patient, the cells directly isolated- primary tumor cell culture shows the way.

A team led by Si published a protocol in the International Journal of clinical and experimental pathology in 2015 for the successful primary culture of human lung cancer cells using collagenase. The cultured cells could form tumors in nude mice and staining confirmed the pathology.

They recommend the following points for good cell number:

  1. A 1 hour 1% type IV collagenase treatment allowed the isolation and culture of primary cells from 5 patients.
  2. The morphology seen with malignancy was observed in these cultured cells with the use of RPMI-1640 plus penicillin and streptomycin.
  3. Prior to processing, the use of aseptic techniques and sterilized instruments in a highly clean bench and cabinet is warranted.
  4. The sample tissue should be sufficient and should lack lesions or necrosis.
  5. Isolation of cells should be at the earliest and seeding in the flask is recommended within 4-6 hours of collecting the sample.
  6. Contaminating fibroblast cells can be removed by trypsin digestion plus differential adhesion.

Such successful in vitro primary lung cancer culture can be used as a model to assess the unique and heterogeneous properties of tumors to make personalized therapy an efficient reality soon.


de Groot, P. M., Wu, C. C., Carter, B. W., & Munden, R. F. (2018). The epidemiology of lung cancer. Translational lung cancer research7(3), 220–233.doi:10.21037/tlcr.2018.05.06.

Talmadge, J. E., & Fidler, I. J. (2010).AACR centennial series: the biology of cancer metastasis: a historical perspective. Cancer Research70(14), 5649–5669.doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-1040.

Si, L. L., Lv, L., Zhou, W. H., & Hu, W. D. (2015). Establishment and identification of human primary lung cancer cell culture in vitro. International journal of clinical and experimental pathology8(6), 6540–6546.

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