<figcaption> Credit: courtesy of Trish Brafford</figcaption>
Credit: courtesy of Trish Brafford

The human melanoma cell lines at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia make up one of the most comprehensive collections of disease cell lines in the world. Since 1977, Meenhard Herlyn and his colleagues (click to read the related story A life behind life science) have collected samples from approximately 4,000 tumors, and established more than 400 cell lines.

The collection grew out of a project to characterize the binding capacity of anti-melanoma antibodies to different tumor types. After seven failed attempts, the first cultured cell line, WM8, came from a large tumor in the groin of an elderly woman in 1977. The second successful line, WM9, from a metastatic lymph node, became the "workhorse" of melanoma research, says Herlyn, who estimates that over 800 pounds of this tumor have been grown in culture.

The WM cell lines are now routinely distributed free of charge...

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