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Potential for Cancer Cell Errors Puts Research in Doubt

The validity of dozens of cancer studies have come under question following tests that indicate scientists have been unwittingly using the incorrect types of cancer cells for their research

All research studies in question involve the use of esophageal adenocarcinoma cancer cell lines. Cell lines are a specific type of sample that is grown in a laboratory. While this is advantageous in that it increases the supply of cells for research, it also results in different studies receiving cells that are all culled from a single patient.

While this isn’t an issue in and of itself, recent tests show that many samples labeled as esophageal cells actually consisted of alternate tumor types such as lung, stomach and bowel cancer.

Given the broad usage of single cell lines, this finding has placed numerous major drug trials in a gray area of unreliability. These trials are intended to provide accurate results on whether or not a drug is both safe and effective. However, if the wrong cell types are used, this can result in faulty data that can essentially negate any research involved.

As stated in a formal report created by the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, “Experimental results based on these contaminated cell lines have led to ongoing clinical trials recruiting patients, to more than 100 scientific publications, and to at least three cancer research grants and 11 U.S. patents.”

The most notable drug that may have been tested based on false cell lines is sorafenib.(Nexavar).

Sadly, the problem of mixing up laboratory cell lines is not a new one. According to a spokesperson for the Health Protection Agency, ” The use of wrongly identified human cancer cell lines is a problem that was first recognized more than 20 years ago.”

Due to the prevalence of the problem, scientists are encouraged to validate the samples supplied for research through DNA testing prior to beginning a research program.

Resources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8460049.stm