Despite the significant efforts made in understanding of various aspects of cancer such as progression, metastasis, tumor microenvironment, we have achieved very limited clinical success. It is majorly because cancer is a heterogeneous disease having varied histopathology, genetic differences making difficult to understand disease mechanism as well as discover therapeutic agents for it. The heterogeneity in cancer is not limited to different patients, but also occurs within a single patient that poses great challenges for studying cancer. There is need to have good platform for pre-clinical testing so that data identified in the pre-clinical studies can be translated to clinical trials.
Cancer cell lines are being widely used for research purposes and proved to be an excellent model to study biological mechanisms involved in cancer. These cancerous cell lines have many advantages for cancer research and for development of new therapeutic approaches for treating cancer. The advantages associated with cancerous cell lines are easy to handle, homogeneity, immediate available to scientific researchers in ample quantity etc.
In spite significant role cancer cell lines in research, there is a debate among the researchers whether these are actual representative of the original tumour? Some researchers say that there is high but not perfect genomic similarity between the original tumour tissue and the cancer cell lines. However, some disadvantages also need to be taken into account. Some of the cancerous cell lines may have cross contamination with HeLa cells. The genotypic and phenotypic drift is common phenomenon in continuous cultures, especially the ones deposited in cell banks for many years. Infection with mycoplasma can also change the culture properties in continuous cell lines. Cell culture environment is different from that of the original tumour.
Primary cell cultures (derived directly from the tumours) are coming up as a viable tool to study cancer. Fresh tumour samples obtained by surgery or tumour samples embedded in paraffin can also be used for the study of cancer biology. These models represent the state of the tumour in vivo with its natural heterogeneity. However, the only problem is tissue sample is available in limited amount.
Primary Cancer Cell Cultures also open door to Personalized Cancer Therapy
The use of primary cancer cell cultures is gaining relevance for a patient-specific therapeutic approach. These are valuable tool for studying the tumor biology, for identifying novel biomarkers, and for testing new compounds. This approach include take a tumor sample from a patient, and use it to find the drug that affects the malignant cells only. No side effects will be there as the only cells affected are cancer cells.
The successful isolation and maintenance of primary tumor cell cultures will allow researchers to improve their understanding of cancer mechanism and therapeutic approaches to treat the same.