A case of mistaken identity

A cell line used in more than 650 published breast cancer studies may not be a breast cancer cell line at all

Megan Scudellari
Sep 15, 2008
Some breast cancer researchers may be studying the wrong type of cancer. A growing body of evidence suggests a cell line that's been a cornerstone of metastatic breast cancer research over the last 25 years is in fact derived from melanoma cells. This case of mistaken identity is causing concern among researchers working with the cells, reviewers, and cell suppliers, with some already reclassifying the cells as melanoma.It began with a Nature Genetics paper in 2000. Reading it, James Rae, then a doctoral student at Georgetown University, thought the National Cancer Institute had made an error. The paper examined gene expression in 60 human cancer cell lines at the NCI, including one Rae was using -- MDA-MB-435, the most widely used model for metastatic breast cancer. The first figure in the paper, a colored tree diagram, showed the 435 cell line in pink, but it was not grouped with the...
breast cancermelanomaa findingRae reportedconcluded gene expression studiespublishedBreast Cancer Research and TreatmentJanet Price NCIBerkeley LabATCCfoundAlison AllanSelvarangan Ponnazhaganmail@the-scientist.comCorrection (September 19): A previous version of this story referred to Janet Price as the original distributor of the MDA-MB-435 cell line. According to officials at MD Anderson, the line was originally distributed by Relda Cailleau in 1984, with Janet Price taking over the role in the 1990s. The Scientist regrets the error.