The ex vivo colospheres are a newly characterised three-dimensional colon cancer multicellular model, derived from mechanically dissociated human colon cancer tissue (Br J Cancer 2009, 101:473-82). We have previously demonstrated that this short term culture model is exclusively formed by cancer cells and associated with tumor aggressiveness.

To further investigate the potential interest of colospheres as micrometastasis or cancer stem cell model, we used 3 human colon cancer xenografts directly established from 3 patient colon adenocarcinoma in Nude mice (Cancer Res 2007, 67:398-407). These xenograft tissues are able to give rise to numerous colospheres in only 3 days after mechanical dissociation. This approach allows working with reproducible biological tumor material, in which all human part is known to be cancer cells.

Xenograft tissues and derived colospheres were collected for gene expression study. Expression of 78 genes, involved in stemness, proliferation, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and metastasis, has been studied using real-time RT-PCR. All the probes used are human specific and do not cross with mouse genome. Consequently, the comparison of gene expression profiles corresponds to the comparison of gene expression in colosphere-forming cells versus that in the cancer cell counterpart from xenograft tissue.

Gene expression clustering analysis clearly showed that for the 3 colon adenocarcinoma, colospheres matched with their parent xenografts. This first point is important because it demonstrated 1) the lack of ex vivo culture artefact (which would have led to classification into 2 groups: all xenografts opposed to all colospheres); 2) the relevance of colospheres for mimicking in vivo tumor cells. Nevertheless, in all 3 pairs xenograft/colospheres, 3 genes were found overexpressed: ALDH1, KLF4 and PLAUR. This overexpression has to be put in line with high tumorigenicity of these colospheres when injected into mice (Br J Cancer 2009, 101:473-82). Gene expression increase will be confirmed at protein level. To gain also information about location of the cells expressing ALDH1, KLF4 and PLAUR, we developed an immunostaining protocol for confocal microscopy and in situ protein detection (BMC Cancer, in revision).

In conclusion, these preliminary data underline the interest of colospheres as ex vivo microtumor model with cancer initiating-cell functions.

Note: This abstract was not presented at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010 because the presenter was unable to attend.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2010;70(8 Suppl):Abstract nr LB-161.