The ability to study live cells as they progress through the stages of cancer provides the opportunity to discover dynamic networks underlying pathology, markers of early stages, and ways to assess therapeutics. Genetically engineered animal models of cancer, where it is possible to study the consequences of temporal-specific induction of oncogenes or deletion of tumor suppressors, have yielded major insights into cancer progression. Yet differences exist between animal and human cancers, such as in markers of progression and response to therapeutics. Thus, there is a need for human cell models of cancer progression. Most human cell models of cancer are based on tumor cell lines and xenografts of primary tumor cells that resemble the advanced tumor state, from which the cells were derived, and thus do not recapitulate disease progression. Yet a subset of cancer types have been reprogrammed to pluripotency or near-pluripotency by blastocyst injection, by somatic cell nuclear transfer and by induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technology. The reprogrammed cancer cells show that pluripotency can transiently dominate over the cancer phenotype. Diverse studies show that reprogrammed cancer cells can, in some cases, exhibit early-stage phenotypes reflective of only partial expression of the cancer genome. In one case, reprogrammed human pancreatic cancer cells have been shown to recapitulate stages of cancer progression, from early to late stages, thus providing a model for studying pancreatic cancer development in human cells where previously such could only be discerned from mouse models. We discuss these findings, the challenges in developing such models and their current limitations, and ways that iPS reprogramming may be enhanced to develop human cell models of cancer progression. Zaret & Kim feature recent work on induced reprogramming of cancer cells that may accelerate genuine modeling and new insights into human malignancies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)