Researchers launch a collaborative brain metastases research platform

The Brain Metastasis Cell Lines Panel compiles research from various international institutions on the numerous brain metastasis cell lines that have been developed, in hopes collaboration will expedite research and drug development.

cancer cells dividing

To combat the lack of communication regarding the more technical and everyday advances in laboratory work, typical in scientific research, a group of 19 international laboratories have agreed to digitally pool and organise their information on brain metastases.

The researchers hope that sharing knowledge and expertise will facilitate research and expedite the development of novel therapies.

Between 10 and 30 percent of all cancer patients develop brain metastases, especially from breast, lung and skin tumours. Researchers have struggled to ascertain why some tumour cells manage to overcome the strong defensive barriers of the brain against metastases and to develop therapies against this phenomenon.

Cell lines (collections of human or animal cells that have been tailored to grow in the laboratory) are an essential tool for scientists to explore these research questions, as they reproduce the cellular and genetic features of disease, providing insight on the mechanisms that may be an underlying cause.

However, the secretive nature of research science means that often researchers spend time developing a cell line that may have already been established elsewhere in the world. To combat this a project was initiated: compiling information on more than 60 cell lines related to cancerous brain metastases from participating laboratories in Germany, China, the US, Ireland, Israel, the UK, Norway, Switzerland and the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) (representing Spain). The effort was coordinated by the Brain Metastasis Group, led by Manuel Valiente at the CNIO, the information has been integrated into the website of the CNIO Brain Metastasis Cell Lines Panel (BrMPanel).

Valient explained: “The platform contains cell lines of all kinds, from cell lines that have been cultivated in vitro for years, through lines developed from mouse models that spontaneously generated brain metastases, to the so-called PDX lines – extracted from a patient and the most genetically similar to that patient.”

The BrMPanel also explains how to use these biological materials, what strategies each line requires in order to be used in different studies, what therapies they have been tested on them and whether these therapies have successfully reached clinical trials in patients.

“Our goal is to encourage more teams to investigate brain metastasis, by facilitating the first step of finding the best model to work with,” said Valiente. Who explained that “it is a pity that it is so difficult to obtain such basic information, which leads to situations like a laboratory dedicating for months resources and efforts to develop a cell line that has already been created by somebody else, with all delays in the study this implies. Now, more than ever, we are at a moment that resources must be optimised and we must make everything we know available to other groups to avoid duplication of work that has already been done.”

The hope is that the BrMPanel will grow through contributions from new laboratories and that it will inspire other teams to create panels of metastatic cell lines of other organs.

The group has also published a paper comprising information from the panel in Cancer Research.

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