Management and potentialities of primary cancer cultures in preclinical and translational studies

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The use of patient-derived primary cell cultures in cancer preclinical assays has increased in recent years. The management of resected tumor tissue remains complex and a number of parameters must be respected to obtain complete sample digestion and optimal vitality yield. We provide an overview of the benefits of correct primary cell culture management using different preclinical methodologies, and describe the pros and cons of this model with respect to other kinds of samples. One important advantage is that the heterogeneity of the cell populations composing a primary culture partially reproduces the tumor microenvironment and crosstalk between malignant and healthy cells, neither of which is possible with cell lines. Moreover, the use of patient-derived specimens in innovative preclinical technologies, such as 3D systems or bioreactors, represents an important opportunity to improve the translational value of the results obtained. In vivo models could further our understanding of the crosstalk between tumor and other tissues as they enable us to observe the systemic and biological interactions of a complete organism. Although engineered mice are the most common model used in this setting, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) species has recently been recognized as an innovative experimental system. In fact, the transparent body and incomplete immune system of zebrafish embryos are especially useful for evaluating patient-derived tumor tissue interactions in healthy hosts. In conclusion, ex vivo systems represent an important tool for cancer research, but samples require correct manipulation to maximize their translational value.

Original languageEnglish
Article number229
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 7 2017


  • Cancer microenvironment
  • Management
  • Patient-derived xenograft
  • Primary culture
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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