Derivation and cultivation of tumor cells

Derivation and cultivation of human tumor cells from primary tumors

  • Efficient derivation and expansion of tumor cell cultures from primary tumors
  • Preserved parental tumor heterogeneity, tumor-initiating capacity, and genetic stability
  • Improved in vitro models for cancer research and drug screening
  • Stable cell lines from primary human tumor tissue

Standardized workflow for deriving primary cell lines from solid tumors

Derivation of primary cell cultures from solid tumor material involves multiple critical handling steps. To improve this complex procedure, we developed a workflow allowing for rapid and flexible tissue preparation for subsequent derivation of primary tumor cell cultures using our novel Pancreas TumorMACS Medium.

The workflow enables highly standardized cell line derivation and still offers the opportunity to seed dissociated tumors and/or selected cell fractions such as isolated tumor cells or tumor subpopulations. 

Standardized workflow for deriving primary cell lines from patient and xenotransplanted tumors

Application data by workflow step

Sample collection and tumor dissociation

The gentleMACS™ Dissociator in combination with the Tumor Dissociation Kit, human ensures rapid and standardized dissociation of tissue samples into single-cell suspensions. No matter the tumor entity, gentleMACS Technology provides excellent cell viability and functionality for further downstream cell separation, analysis, and culture.

Analaysis of a human melanoma single-cell suspension after exclusion of RBCs
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Dissociation of human tumor tissue 

The presence of red blood cells (RBCs) hampers the accurate determination of cell viability as well as absolute cell counts for tumor-infiltrating leukocytes, cancer stem cells, and other tumor-resident cells. Labeling the cells with CD235a (glycophorin A) antibody allows for the fast and simple discrimination and exclusion of RBCs for subsequent flow cytometric analysis.


Get more information on storage and dissociation of tumor tissue here.

Untouched tumor cell isolation

Pure tumor cells can be isolated by depleting non-tumor cells from dissociated tissue. We have defined a cocktail of antibodies recognizing all cells in the tumor microenvironment but the tumor cells.
Using these antibodies coupled to MACS® MicroBeads can eliminate >95% of contaminating cells in less than 20 min.

Analysis of untouched CD133+ tumor cells after non-tumor cell depletion
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Rapid isolation of untouched human tumor cells

Depletion of non-tumor cells from dissociated primary tumors can be performed by magnetic cell separation using the Tumor Cell Isolation Kit, human.

As the isolated tumor cells are untouched, subsequent tumor subpopulations can be isolated by MACS Technology as shown for the isolation of CD133+ cancer stem cells.

Cultivation of tumor cells from primary patient and xenotransplanted pancreatic tumors

The Pancreas TumorMACS Medium has been developed for derivation and expansion of human tumor cell cultures from pancreatic tumors. The medium is optimized to generate primary cell cultures and cell lines from both primary patient tumors as well as xenotransplanted tumors. Properties of the generated cell cultures closely resemble the parental tumor, including expression of subtype-specific markers, cellular heterogeneity, genetic as well as epigenetic signatures, and tumorigenic potential.

Morphological heterogeneity of primary human cell lines
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Morphological heterogeneity of primary cell lines from patient or xenotransplanted tumors

Using Pancreas TumorMACS Medium, cells can be plated directly after dissociation or after tumor cell isolation and both, adherent and suspension cells can be successfully expanded. Primary cell lines resemble the parent tumor, as morphological heterogeneity is preserved even in late passages.

Xenograft models derived from primary cell lines closely and reliably resemble the initial patient tumor
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Tumor-derived cell lines resemble initial patient tumors in vivo

While cell line–derived xenografts show a homogeneous histology, primary cell lines derived from primary tumors and propagated in Pancreas TumorMACS Medium retain their initial heterogeneity. After xenotransplantation, these cell lines closely resemble the parental patient tumor in histological analyses and thus are valuable in vivo tumor models.

Genetic stability of late passages and xenotransplanted tumors
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Genetic stability upon in vitro propagation and xenotransplantation

Long-term propagation of tumor cell lines in vitro harbors the risk of inducing bias in gene expression profiles, thus resulting in the divergence from parental tumors. In primary human cell lines propagated in Pancreas TumorMACS Medium, the global gene expression profile was maintained upon long-term cultivation as well as for primary cell line–derived xenotransplanted tumors.

Related products:

Pancreas TumorMACS Medium

StemMACS Y-27632


Additional media are in pipeline for the cultivation of cells derived from:

  • ovarian tumors
  • renal tumors
  • prostate tumors
  • breast tumors


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