A Potential Window onto Early Pancreatic Cancer Development: Evidence of Cancer Stem Cell Growth after Exposure to Cadmium Chloride in Vitro

By Barrett, Julia R. | Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2012 | Go to article overview

A Potential Window onto Early Pancreatic Cancer Development: Evidence of Cancer Stem Cell Growth after Exposure to Cadmium Chloride in Vitro


Barrett, Julia R., Environmental Health Perspectives


Cancer stem cells are a small subset of tumor cells that are postulated to underlie tumor initiation, growth, and metastasis. Research suggests that these cells may have begun as normal stem cells that underwent mutation or other changes that derail cellular programming and alter growth control pathways. Investigating a previously established link between cadmium exposure and pancreatic cancer, a new study finds that normal human pancreatic cells chronically exposed in vitro to a low level of cadmium chloride acquired cancer cell characteristics and generated what appeared to be cancer stem cells [EHP 120(9):1265-1271; Qu et al.].

Normal human pancreatic ductal epithelial cells were cultured with or without 1.0 [micro]M of cadmium chloride for 29 weeks. The treated cells were sampled periodically and assessed for cancer cell characteristics, including increased secretion of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), increased invasiveness, increased anchorage-independent growth (i.e., ability to grow while floating freely in medium), and altered colony formation. Various subpopulations of pancreatic cancer stem cells have been shown to overexpress the genes CD44, CXCR4, OCT4, and S100P, which are involved in various aspects of cancer growth and spread. Samples therefore were also analyzed for expression of these genes and their associated proteins. The results showed that, compared with control cells, those cells chronically exposed to cadmium (which the authors dubbed CCE cells) demonstrated characteristics typical of cancer cells. …

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