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The Pros And Cons Of Cancer Cell Lines

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According to NCI dictionary of cancer terms1, cancer cell lines are cancer cells that keep dividing and growing over time, under certain conditions in a laboratory. Cancer cell lines are used in research to study the biology of cancer and to test cancer treatments. As there are ethical issues in using animal models to study cancer, cell lines have been used as an alternative model. There are many pros and cons in using cell lines as a model for cancer study. A large number of cancer cell lines are available and are easily accessible for scientific research. Frozen cells can be used as a substitute for contaminated cultures. Under appropriate conditions, the results are reproducible when using cell lines. Studying cancer cell lines enables to understand the genes that are deregulated as well as the signaling pathways associated with this disease. Studies using cell lines are helpful in developing anticancer drugs. Genetic as well as epigenetic modifications in cell lines can be achieved using vectors, siRNA, demethylation agents and cytostatics2. Cancer cells are highly homogenous. A cancer cell line encyclopedia, catalogs the genetic and molecular profiles of almost 1000 human cancer cell lines. This was launched by Novartis and Broad Institute3. According to Mark Fishman, President of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, “Probing cell lines with medicines targeted at specific pathways, as done for the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia, provides a powerful tool for design of cancer treatment.” Even though cancer cell lines are important model system, the scientific community questions the reliability of this system. During the first passages, the cell lines show chromosome abnormalities, molecular/ morphologic characteris...

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