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Evaluation of characteristics of CD44+CD117+ ovarian cancer stem cells in three dimensional basement membrane extract scaffold versus two dimensional monocultures

Junsong Chen1, Jing Wang2, Dengyu Chen1, Jie Yang3, Cuiping Yang1, Yunxia Zhang2, Hongyi Zhang1 and Jun Dou1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathogenic Biology & Immunology, Medical School, Southeast University, Dingjiaqiao 87, Nanjing, 210009, China

2 Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Zhongda Hospital, Medical School, Southeast University, Dingjiaqiao 87, Nanjing, 210009, China

3 Jiangsu Simcere Pharmaceutical R&D center, No.699-18 XUANWU Ave, Nanjing, 210042, China

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BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-7

Published: 31 January 2013



Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be capable of surviving conventional chemotherapeutic treatments because the cells have more resistant to anticancer drugs than common cancer cells. Most in vitro studies in experimental cancer cells have been done in a two-dimensional (2D) monocultures, while accumulating evidence suggests that cancer cells behave differently when they are grown within a three-dimensional (3D) culture system.


The CD44+CD117+cells isolated from human epithelial ovarian cancer SKOV-3 cell line using magnetic-activated cell sorting were found to grow faster than the SKOV-3 cells in the 3D culture and in the nude mice. Anticancer drugs 5FU, docetaxel, cisplatin, and carboplatin were seen to inhibit growth of the CD44+CD117+ cells by 50% in the 2D culture with IC50 concentration, whereas, in the 3D culture, the four drugs inhibited the cell growth by only 34.4%, 40.8%, 34.8% and 21.9% at 3D one, respectively. Effect of paclitaxel on the CD44+CD117+cell viability indicated that fewer cells underwent apoptosis in 3D culture than that in 2D one. In addition, anticancer drugs markedly increased the expression of ABCG2 and ABCB1 of CD44+CD117+cells in 3D culture.


Our assay demonstrated that human epithelial ovarian cancer CD44+CD117+cells possessed the properties of CSCs that exhibited more chemoresistance in the 3D culture than that of in 2D one. The 3D culture provides a realistic model for study of the CSC response to anticancer drugs.

Three-dimensional culture; Epithelial ovarian cancer; Cancer stem cells; Chemoresistance