PloS one

Characterization of stem-like cells in mucoepidermoid tracheal paediatric tumor.

PMID 25229469


Stem cells contribute to regeneration of tissues and organs. Cells with stem cell-like properties have been identified in tumors from a variety of origins, but to our knowledge there are yet no reports on tumor-related stem cells in the human upper respiratory tract. In the present study, we show that a tracheal mucoepidermoid tumor biopsy obtained from a 6 year-old patient contained a subpopulation of cells with morphology, clonogenicity and surface markers that overlapped with bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs). These cells, designated as MEi (mesenchymal stem cell-like mucoepidermoid tumor) cells, could be differentiated towards mesenchymal lineages both with and without induction, and formed spheroids in vitro. The MEi cells shared several multipotent characteristics with BM-MSCs. However, they displayed differences to BM-MSCs in growth kinectics and gene expression profiles relating to cancer pathways and tube development. Despite this, the MEi cells did not possess in vivo tumor-initiating capacity, as proven by the absence of growth in situ after localized injection in immunocompromised mice. Our results provide an initial characterization of benign tracheal cancer-derived niche cells. We believe that this report could be of importance to further understand tracheal cancer initiation and progression as well as therapeutic development.