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Oesophageal cancer research 'thrown into doubt'

15th January 2010

The results of dozens of scientific studies into oesophageal cancer could be thrown into doubt after it was revealed they used the wrong kind of cells, research at the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam has claimed.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that three commonly-used human esophageal adenocarcinoma cell lines originated from other tumour types.

The cell lines, which have been used in more than 100 published studies and 11 US drug patents, were discovered to have come from lung carcinoma, colorectal adenocarcinoma and gastric fundus carcinoma, not esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Dr Winand Dinjens and his colleagues in the facility's department of pathology wrote: 'Widespread use of contaminated cell lines threatens the development of treatment strategies for [oesophageal cancer].'

The study pointed out that the established esophageal adenocarcinoma cell lines are so important to oesophageal cancer research because there is a limited availability of animal models and human samples.

However, writing an editorial in the journal, Dr Robert Shoemaker of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland suggested a cell line's origin may not be critical to all studies as 'cancer is a heterogeneous disease'.

According to Cancer Research UK, oesophageal cancer is the ninth most common form of the disease in Britain, with around 7,800 cases diagnosed each year.

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