Isolation of stem cells from human pancreatic cancer xenografts

Zeshaan Rasheed, Qiuju Wang, William Matsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been identified in a growing number of malignancies and are functionally defined by their ability to undergo self-renewal and produce differentiated progeny. These properties allow CSCs to recapitulate the original tumor when injected into immunocompromised mice. CSCs within an epithelial malignancy were first described in breast cancer and found to display specific cell surface antigen expression (CD44+CD24low/-). Since then, CSCs have been identified in an increasing number of other human malignancies using CD44 and CD24 as well as a number of other surface antigens. Physiologic properties, including aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity, have also been used to isolate CSCs from malignant tissues. Recently, we and others identified CSCs from pancreatic adenocarcinoma based on ALDH activity and the expression of the cell surface antigens CD44 and CD24, and CD133. These highly tumorigenic populations may or may not be overlapping and display other functions. We found that ALDH+ and CD44+CD24+ pancreatic CSCs are similarly tumorigenic, but ALDH+ cells are relatively more invasive. In this protocol we describe a method to isolate viable pancreatic CSCs from low-passage human xenografts. Xenografted tumors are harvested from mice and made into a single-cell suspension. Tissue debris and dead cells are separated from live cells and then stained using antibodies against CD44 and CD24 and using the ALDEFLUOR reagent, a fluorescent substrate of ALDH. CSCs are then isolated by fluorescence activated cell sorting. Isolated CSCs can then be used for analytical or functional assays requiring viable cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2169
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number43
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aldehyde dehydrogenase
  • CD24
  • CD44
  • Cancer stem cell
  • Cellular Biology
  • Fluorescent activated cell sorting
  • Issue 43
  • Mouse models
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Xenograft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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