Despite key advances in cancer therapies, malignant tumors, such as melanoma, continue to be one of the leading causes of mortality. Recent debate on whether cancer can originate from a tumor-initiating subpopulation has permeated oncology and stem cell research. It has been well established that primary and immortalized tumor cells consist of heterogeneous cell populations. The profound effect of tumor heterogeneity on tumor growth and drug resistance remains elusive, but it is highly likely that subpopulations of cancer cells have different capabilities of self-renewal and drug resistance. Discrepancies between excellent in vitro potency and efficacy and poor patient response have been observed on multiple cancer therapeutics. Although this observation can be attributed to many factors, a better understanding of the contribution from subpopulations within a cancer will help bridge the gap between in vitro assay results and patient prognosis. To comprehend this impact, it is critical to isolate and characterize cancer subpopulations that possess higher growth and drug resistance properties so that novel therapeutics can be developed to eventually eradicate all cancer cells. In this article, we describe a method to enrich a subpopulation, CB4, from the melanoma cell line WM115. CB4 exhibited higher anchorage-independent growth, higher survival under serum starvation condition, and lower drug sensitivity to commonly used melanoma treatment compared with WM115. Details of functional properties and gene expression of CB4 compared with WM115 are reported. Our study demonstrates that it is feasible to isolate and enrich a subpopulation that exhibits higher growth capacity and treatment resistance from an immortalized tumor cell line.
Keywords: 3D cell culture; WM115; cancer stem cell; melanoma.