Development and validation of in vitro methods for assaying cancer stem cell responses to therapeutic challenge

The concept of cancer stem cells (CSCs) has recently been the focus of much experimental investigation and several reports now indicate that selective survival of CSCs may be responsible for tumour recurrence after therapy. A prevailing current view is that valid information concerning CSCs can be obtained only by work with fresh tumour cells transplanted to murine hosts. With the increasing need to assay existing and new therapeutic agents for actions on CSCs, a large increase in animal use is expected unless suitable surrogate in vitro assays can be developed. We present evidence that stem cell patterns similar to those present in human tumours in situ are generally retained in malignant cell lines. In order to reduce or eliminate the use of animals in stem cell studies, we propose to investigate a wider range of cell lines, for use together with analytical techniques developed in pilot work, to develop, validate and scale up in vitro assays of CSC responses to therapeutic challenge.

Biddle A. et al. (2016) Phenotypic plasticity determines cancer stem cell therapeutic resistance in oral squamous cell carcinoma. EBioMedicine. 4 (2016) 138–145. DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.01.007

Biddle. A. et al. (2013) CD44 staining of cancer stem-like cells Is Influenced by down-regulation of CD44 variant Isoforms and up-regulation of the standard CD44 isoform in the population of cells that have undergone epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Plos One  8(2):e57314 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057314

Biddle. A. et al. (2011) Cancer stem cells in squamous cell carcinoma switch between two distinct phenotypes that are preferentially migratory or proliferative. Cancer Res. 71(15):5317-26. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472

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Project grant



Principal investigator

Professor Ian MacKenzie


Queen Mary University of London

Grant reference number


Award date:

Nov 2009 - Oct 2012

Grant amount


Primary 'R'


Scientific Discipline

Cells and systems


Stem cells


Cell line
Drug development