Functional analyses of the cancer stem cell-like properties of human endometrial tumor initiating cells

Cell Cycle. 2008 Jan 15;7(2):242-9. doi: 10.4161/cc.7.2.5207. Epub 2007 Oct 24.


Recent data suggest that rare stem cell populations with the capacity to self renew and drive tumor formation are a feature of solid tumors. Several investigators have identified putative stem cells from solid tumors and cancer cell lines following isolation of a side population (SP) defined by dye exclusion. We investigated this parameter in our efforts to identify an endometrial cancer (EnCa) stem cell population. Multiple EnCa cell lines were assessed and verapamil sensitive SP and non-SP cells were isolated from two human EnCa cell lines. The functional significance of the SP and non-SP derived from AN3CA was evaluated in vitro and in vivo. SP cells proliferated at a significantly slower rate than the non-SP fraction, and a larger proportion of the SP cells were in the G(1) phase of the cell cycle as compared to the non-SP fraction. The SP fraction was more resistant to the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel. The SP comprised -0.02% of the initial AN3CA cell population and this proportion of SP cells was maintained within the larger heterogeneous population following repeated passages of purified SP cells. These findings suggest that SP cells derived from the An3CA cell line have the stem cell properties of low proliferative activity, chemoresistance and self-renewal. We also tested relative tumor formation activity of the SP and non-SP fractions. Only the SP fraction was tumorigenic. Additionally, we identified SP fractions in primary EnCa. Together these results are consistent with the hypothesis that EnCa contain a subpopulation of tumor initiating cells with stem like properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Separation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous