Osteosarcoma (OS) is suspected to originate from dysfunctional mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSC). We sought to identify OS-derived cells (OSDC) with potential cancer stem cell (CSC) properties by comparing OSDC to MSC derived from bone marrow of patients. This study included in vitro characterization with sphere forming assays, differentiation assays, cytogenetic analysis, and in vivo investigations of their tumorigenicity and tumor supportive capacities. Primary cell lines were isolated from nine high-grade OS samples. All primary cell lines demonstrated stromal cell characteristics. Compared to MSC, OSDC presented a higher ability to form sphere clones, indicating a potential CSC phenotype, and were more efficient at differentiation towards osteoblasts. None of the OSDC displayed the complex chromosome rearrangements typical of high grade OS and none of them induced tumors in immunodeficient mice. However, two OSDC demonstrated focused genomic abnormalities. Three out of seven, and six out of seven OSDC showed a supportive role on local tumor development, and on metastatic progression to the lungs, respectively, when co-injected with OS cells in nude mice. The observation of OS-associated stromal cells with rare genetic abnormalities and with the capacity to sustain tumor progression may have implications for future tumor treatments.
Keywords: cancer stem cells; mesenchymal stem cells; osteosarcoma; spheres.