Contaminated cell lines used for major cancer studies

Scientists inadvertently relied on contaminated cell lines to study new drugs for esophageal cancer, and the finding has thrown into question a number of major cancer studies. Dutch researchers found that the purported esophageal cancer cell lines actually contained cells from lung, bowel and other cancer tumors. 

"Experimental results based on these contaminated cell lines have led to ongoing clinical trials recruiting patients, to more than 100 scientific publications, and to at least three cancer research grants and 11 U.S. patents--which emphasizes the importance of our findings," the authors write in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Not only does the discovery of the contaminated cell lines cast doubt on ongoing cancer trials, it also raises questions about the use of sorafenib for esophageal cancer, as the wrong lines were used to test the drug's potential for treating the disease.

Experts suggest that before research groups rely on a cell line for a study, they should first pay to check its authenticity. The problem with contaminated or misidentified cell lines goes back about 20 years.

- here's the story from the BBC