Involvement of Heregulin/HER3 in the Primary Culture of Human Urothelial Cancer

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We previously established a novel method of human colorectal cancer primary culture. This method, termed the cancer tissue originated spheroid method, involves the preparation of multicellular spheroids of primary cancer cells that are cultured so that cell-cell contact is maintained. We applied this method to human urothelial cancer.

Materials and Methods:

Cancer tissue originated spheroids were prepared from xenografts or primary human bladder urothelial cancer tumors following the same protocol used for human colorectal cancer. Cancer tissue originated spheroids were characterized using immunohistochemistry, Western blot and polymerase chain reaction.


We established a xenograft from a primary bladder urothelial cancer, and isolated and cultured cancer tissue originated spheroids from the xenograft tumor. Cancer tissue originated spheroids retained the characteristics of the original tumor and those of the xenograft. Heregulin promoted cancer tissue originated spheroid growth, and inhibitors of PI3K and mTOR inhibited heregulin induced growth, as did lapatinib but not erlotinib. We also prepared cancer tissue originated spheroids from primary bladder urothelial cancer. The success rate of establishing primary cancer tissue originated spheroids from nonmuscle invasive urothelial cancer was 90.7% and that from muscle invasive cancer was 68.2%. The overall success rate was 84.2%. Heregulin promoted the growth of primary cancer tissue originated spheroids from 4 of 7 patients.


We report a method of establishing primary cultures of human urothelial cancer cells. Growth stimulation by heregulin in cancer tissue originated spheroids from xenografts and primary tumors suggests the possibility of molecular targeting therapy against HER3 signaling for human urothelial cancer. The cancer tissue originated spheroid method might be useful for selecting patients for molecular targeting drugs such as lapatinib.

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