"Our observations highlight the potential utility of isolating the factors within the hESC microenvironment responsible for influencing tumor cell fate and reversing the cancerous properties of metastatic tumor cells, such as melanoma," said Mary J. C. Hendrix, in whose laboratories at Children's Memorial Research Center the experiments were conducted.
An article describing the findings by Hendrix and her laboratory group was published in the Nov. 17 online issue of the journal Stem Cells. Hendrix is president and scientific director of the Children's Memorial Research Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the executive committees of The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University. The Northwestern researchers used a unique, three-dimensional model to test whether the microenvironment supporting human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) would influence the behavior of human metastatic melanoma cells since hESCs have the ability to develop into a variety of normal cell types to assume a more normal melanocyte-like cell, the skin cell type of origin for melanoma.
The model, which was developed in Hendrix's laboratories, consists of a three-dimensional collagen matrix preconditioned by hESCs, followed by their removal and subsequent application, or seeding, of metastatic melanoma cells onto the embryonic microenvironment, which was followed by molecular and functional analyses.