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Changes of protein expression during tumorosphere formation of small cell lung cancer circulating tumor cells


1 Institute of Pharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2 Karl Landsteiner Institute of Lung Research and Pulmonary Oncology, Klinik Floridsdorf, Vienna, Austria
3 Department of Trauma Surgery, Sozialmedizinisches Zentrum Ost, Donauspital, Vienna, Austria
4 Division of Special Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

* Corresponding Author: Gerhard Hamilton,

Oncology Research 2023, 31(1), 13-22.


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is frequently disseminated and has a dismal prognosis with survival times of approximately two years. This cancer responds well to initial chemotherapy but recurs within a short time as a globally chemoresistant tumor. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are held responsible for metastasis, the extremely high numbers of these cells in advanced SCLC allowed us to establish several permanent CTC cell lines. These CTCs are distinguished by the spontaneous formation of large spheroids, termed tumorospheres, in regular tissue culture. These contain quiescent and hypoxic cells in their interior and are associated with high chemoresistance compared to single cell cultures. Nine CTC lines were compared for their expression of 84 proteins associated with cancer either as single cells or in the form of tumorospheres in Western blot arrays. With the exception of the UHGc5 line, all other CTC lines express EpCAM and lack a complete EpCAM-negative, vimentin-positive epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype. Upon formation of tumorospheres the expression of EpCAM, that mediates cell-cell adhesion is markedly upregulated. Proteins such as E-Cadherin, p27 KIP1, Progranulin, BXclx, Galectin-3, and Survivin showed variable changes for the distinct CTC cell lines. In conclusion, EpCAM presents the most critical marker for individual SCLC CTCs and the assembly of highly chemoresistant tumorospheres.


Cite This Article

STICKLER, S., RATH, B., HOCHMAIR, M., LANG, C., WEIGL, L. et al. (2023). Changes of protein expression during tumorosphere formation of small cell lung cancer circulating tumor cells. Oncology Research, 31(1), 13–22.

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