Remnant living cells that escape cell loss in late-stage tumors exhibit cancer stem cell-like characteristics

Y. L. Chen, S. Y. Wang, R. S. Liu, H. E. Wang, J. C. Chen, S. H. Chiou, C. A. Chang, Liang-ting Lin, D. T.W. Tan, Y. J. Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A balance between cell proliferation and cell loss is essential for tumor progression. Although up to 90% of cells are lost in late-stage carcinomas, the progression and characteristics of remnant living cells in tumor mass are unclear. Here we used molecular imaging to track the progression of living cells in a syngeneic tumor model, and ex vivo investigated the properties of this population at late-stage tumor. The piggyBac transposon system was used to stably introduce the dual reporter genes, including monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP) and herpes simplex virus type-1 thymidine kinase (HSV1-tk) genes for fluorescencebased and radionuclide-based imaging of tumor growth in small animals, respectively. Iodine-123-labeled 5-iodo-2′-fluoro-1-beta-D- arabinofuranosyluracil was used as a radiotracer for HSV1-tk gene expression in tumors. The fluorescence- and radionuclide-based imaging using the single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography revealed that the number of living cells reached the maximum at 1 week after implantation of 4T1 tumors, and gradually decreased and clustered near the side of the body until 4 weeks accompanied by enlargement of tumor mass. The remnant living cells at late-stage tumor were isolated and investigated ex vivo. The results showed that these living cells could form mammospheres and express cancer stem cell (CSC)-related biomarkers, including octamer-binding transcription factor 4, SRY (sex-determining region Y)-box 2, and CD133 genes compared with those cultured in vitro. Furthermore, this HSV1-tk-expressing CSC-like population was sensitive to ganciclovir applied for the suicide therapy. Taken together, the current data suggested that cells escaping from cell loss in latestage tumors exhibit CSC-like characteristics, and HSV1-tk may be considered a theranostic agent for targeting this population in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere399
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Cell-loss factor
  • PiggyBac transposon system
  • Remnant living cells
  • Reporter-gene imaging
  • Syngeneic tumor model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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