Capan 1, a human pancreatic cancer cell line, is routinely grown in 10% fetal calf serum (FCS). In order to characterize the factors needed for its proliferation, FCS was replaced by a synthetic serum (Ultroser G). For Capan 1 proliferation we found that Ultroser G was as efficient as FCS. A subfraction of Ultroser G containing insulin, transferrin, and lipids was found to be responsible for that response since a combination of these compounds reproduced the growth observed with 10% FCS. Lipids stimulated cell proliferation even in the absence of other factors. Other human (MIA PaCa 2, AsPC1, Panc 1) or rat (AR4-2J) pancreatic cancer cell lines tested proliferated in the reconstituted medium containing insulin (100 ng/ml), transferrin (100 µg/ml), fatty acid-free albumin (1 mg/ml), and bovine serum lipids (0.7%), as in 10% FCS. Furthermore, the growth of nonpancreatic cell lines (HT29, A431, CREF) was not enhanced by lipids. Lipoproteins were found to be involved in the mitogenic response of pancreatic cells to lipids, whereas phosphatidylcholine and fatty acids were either inefficient or inhibitors (MIA PaCa 2 and AR4-2J). Alkaline phosphatase and amylase content, differentiation markers for Capan 1 and AR4-2J cells, respectively, were not modified by the reconstituted medium. These data suggest that lipids, insulin, and transferrin are the essential factors for the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cell lines, reproducing the growth effect of 10% FCS. Moreover, in the absence of most of the seric growth factors, pancreatic cells remained differentiated.


This study was supported by grants from Fédération Nationale des Centres de Lutte contre le Cancer and from ARC (Grant 6165).

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