Mayo Clinic creates four new anaplastic thyroid cancer cell lines for research

Several years ago, scientists from the Mayo Clinic discovered that the laboratory samples of anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) that they were using for research were from some other type of cancer. The researchers then set out to create a new set of laboratory ATC cells, derived from tumors donated by patients.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the scientists report successful creation of four new ATC cell lines, each with a different set of molecular mutations driving this aggressive cancer. The researchers are sharing the new ATC cells with other scientists internationally, said the study's co-principal author, John Copland, a cancer biologist at the Mayo Clinic campus at Jacksonville.

"Since cell lines are immortal and can live forever, they are critical to research and a major issue is cell line contamination leading to misidentification and drawing incorrect conclusions for specific cancers," Copland said. "We provide higher standards for characterizing new cell lines at the genomic and molecular level that can be traced back to the originating tumor tissue."

This matters, the researchers said, because advances in cancer treatment depend on the testing that is first undertaken in cell lines, and, therefore, the cell lines must be pure.

Because anaplastic thyroid cancer is exceedingly rare - there are fewer than 600 new ATC cases a year in the U.S. - doctors from the Mayo Clinic are asking every patient having surgery for thyroid cancer for a tumor sample.