Int J Med Sci 2018; 15(10):1051-1061. doi:10.7150/ijms.25760 This issue

Research Paper

Migration of mesenchymal stem cells to tumor xenograft models and in vitro drug delivery by doxorubicin

Senthilkumar Kalimuthu, Liya Zhu, Ji Min Oh, Prakash Gangadaran, Ho Won Lee, Se hwan Baek, Ramya Lakshmi Rajendran, Arunnehru Gopal, Shin Young Jeong, Sang-Woo Lee, Jaetae Lee, Byeong-Cheol Ahn

Department of Nuclear Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, Republic of Korea

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Kalimuthu S, Zhu L, Oh JM, Gangadaran P, Lee HW, Baek Sh, Rajendran RL, Gopal A, Jeong SY, Lee SW, Lee J, Ahn BC. Migration of mesenchymal stem cells to tumor xenograft models and in vitro drug delivery by doxorubicin. Int J Med Sci 2018; 15(10):1051-1061. doi:10.7150/ijms.25760. Available from

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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show therapeutic effects in various types of diseases. MSCs have been shown to migrate towards inflamed or cancerous tissues, and visualized after sacrificing the animal. MSCs are able to deliver drugs to target cells, and are an ideal candidate for cancer therapy. The purpose of this study was to track the migration of MSCs in tumor-bearing mice; MSCs were also used as drug delivery vehicles. Human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) and anaplastic thyroid cancer cells (CAL62) were transduced with lentiviral particles, to express the Renilla luciferase and mCherry (mCherry-Rluc) reporter genes. Human bone marrow-derived MSCs were transduced with lentiviral particles, to express the firefly luciferase and enhanced green fluorescence protein (Fluc2-eGFP) reporter genes (MSC/Fluc). Luciferase activity of the transduced cells was measured by bioluminescence imaging (BLI). Further in vitro migration assays were performed to confirm cancer cells conditioned medium dependent MSC and doxorubicin (DOX) treated MSC migration. MSCs were loaded with DOX, and their therapeutic effects against the cancer cells were studied in vitro. In vivo MSC/Fluc migration in mice having thyroid or breast cancer xenografts was evaluated after systemic injection. Rluc activity of CAL62/Rluc (R2=0.911), MDA-MB-231/Rluc (R2=0.934) cells and Fluc activity of MSC/Fluc (R2=0.91) cells increased with increasing cell numbers, as seen by BLI. eGFP expression of MSC/Fluc was confirmed by confocal microscopy. Similar migration potential was observed between MSC/Fluc and naïve MSCs in migration assay. DOX treated MSCs migration was not decreased compared than MSCs. Migration of the systemically injected MSC/Fluc cells into tumor xenografts (thyroid and breast cancer) was visualized in animal models (p<0.05) and confirmed by ex vivo (p<0.05) BLI. Additionally, MSCs delivered DOX to CAL62/Rluc and MDA-MB-231/Rluc cells, thereby decreasing their Rluc activities. In this study, we confirmed the migration of MSCs to tumor sites in cancer xenograft models using both in vivo and ex vivo BLI imaging. DOX-pretreated MSCs showed enhanced cytotoxic effects. Therefore, this noninvasive reporter gene (Fluc2)-based BLI may be useful for visualizing in vivo tracking of MSCs, which can be used as a drug delivery vehicle for cancer therapy.

Keywords: Human mesenchymal stem cells, Breast cancer, Anaplastic thyroid cancer, CAL62 cells, bioluminescent imaging