ABSTRACT Cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor initiating cells are rare cells that are able to establish a tumor or metastasis. Identification of those CSCs is, however, cumbersome even in established cell lines. Several cancer stem cell markers were reported to be expressed by ovarian cancer. Those cancer stem cells are gifted with lower vulnerability to irradiation and cytostatic drugs explaining the high incidence of recurrence after treatment. A variety of different cancer stem cell markers were described for epithelial tumors. Also, cancer cell lines were assessed for stem cell markers with no common denominator. The expression of CD24, CD44, CD117, CD133, ABCG2, ALDH was determined for cells from 22 patients. Ovarian cancer cells were collected from ascites. Part of the tumor cells were analyzed immediately and stained for the above mentioned cancer stem cell markers. The remainder of the cells was cultured for several weeks using standard stem cell culture conditions. We observed a large variety in expression of putative stem cell markers for primary tumors. After two weeks of culture spheres were seen in several cultures, indicative for cancer stem cells, though not all patients’ cells were able to form spheres. Our data show for the first time the heterogeneity in marker display in primary tumors. Also for the cultured cells stem cell markers were determined. None of the stem cell markers was expressed by all patients’ cells. No correlation with tumor type was demonstrated. The complexity of expression challenges the isolation of cancer stem cells
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