Cloning cancer cells

Why would anyone want to make copies of a cancer cell? Isn’t one bad enough? Well, I’ve been cloning cancer cells, and allow me to expound.

In biology, a clone is a copy of a cell that is genetically identical. Identical twins are clones of each other. Cancer arises from a single renegade cell, thereby resulting a bunch of clones. The tumor is therefore described as monoclonal – deriving from a single cell. This terminology is also used in antibody production. When all the antibodies are produced by a single antibody-producing cell, the antibodies are called monoclonal. On the other hand, if the antibodies are produced by multiple similar but not identical antibody-producing cells, the antibodies are considered polycolonal.

What I’ve said so far about cancer being monoclonal would be true if it were not for one thing. Cancer cells are genetically unstable. In other words, they are constantly mutating in a somewhat random way. However, even though all the cancer cells in a tumor are slightly different from each other, they are still >99% identical to each other. Read the post on resistance if you want proof that all the cancer cells in a tumor are not 100% identical to each other (click here).

One reason I’ve been cloning cancer cells is to understand more what makes cancer cancer. So how do you clone cancer cells? You take a tumor growing in a mouse, and break it up into individual cancer cells. Then you dilute the concentration of cells so low that you end up with a single cancer cell in each plate. It helps to have a microscope. The single cell in each plate eventually fills the plate. What I’ve seen is that in one plate, the cancer cells grow super fast. In another, super slow, and in another somewhere in between. Here is the big question: is there is some advantage to this tumor cell heterogeneity. Is it truly random? Or is there some design or functionality behind it? Time to pray.

Fast growing Lewis Lung Carcinoma
clones at 100x magnification

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