Customer Spotlight

Leveraging 3D Cancer Stem Cells to Conquer Cancer Relapse

Dr. Angel Garcia Martin and Dr. Olatz Leis, StemTek Therapeutics (Bilbao, Spain)


In 2013, Dr. Angel Garcia Martin and Dr. Olatz Leis co-founded StemTek Therapeutics (Bilbao, Spain) as a biopharmaceutical company specializing in cancer stem cell research and drug discovery for novel anticancer therapies. Most chemotherapies and radiotherapies do not target these special cells, which may lead to post-therapy tumor relapse and expansion. Dr. Garcia Martin notes that although finding specific targets in cancer stem cells is complex, they are essential for a durable response in cancer treatment. StemTek eases some of this complexity for researchers by offering in vitro and in vivo screening methods and services based upon their patent-pending Cell2Sphere™ novel compound screening system.
Cell2Sphere uses pre-formed cancer stem cell enriched 3D spheroids to determine whether a compound will be effective in attacking the tumor. These spheroid-forming cells are seeded into 96-well microplates, using BioTek’s MultiFlo™ FX Microplate Dispenser, to facilitate convenient experiment planning. Once a customer receives the frozen and seeded plate, they simply add cell culture media and incubate, and the spheroids grow. Researchers can easily test compounds, study cell-cell interactions and cell signaling mechanisms, and preserve metabolic gradients without implementing their own 3D cell culture procedure.
Scoring and analyzing spheroid data was a cumbersome, manual process, so when the Cell2Sphere process was expanded in 2015, Dr. Garcia Martin knew that StemTek needed a fast, automated and operator-independent method to create the ready-to-use Cell2Sphere plates. He wanted an instrument that could acquire spheroid images, capture spheroid number, size and aspect ratio, and also read fluorescence for cell viability scoring. In the course of his research, he compiled a list of potential solutions, including BioTek’s Cytation™ 5 Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader, and arranged for each to be performance tested in his laboratory and with his specific criteria. A full battery of experiments simulated those typically performed in the process, including: spheroid recognition, spheroid border discrimination and fluorescence intensity. Additionally, he looked closely at each instrument’s ability to auto-focus, the image quality for publication, ease of installation and use, and the amount and proximity of post-installation support. Only the Cytation 5 was able to pass this rigorous evaluation and fulfill all of StemTek’s requirements.

Cytation 5 was quickly installed, including easy programming of the lab’s analysis protocols, so that operators could use it right away and obtain the desired results. Cytation 5 has reduced their analysis times significantly, and eliminated operator-induced bias and excels at reproducible and reliable spheroid imaging, where a typical experiment may use hundreds of 96-well microplates and take several days to score. Cytation 5 will easily adapt to other configurations and needs as StemTek continues to grow. “Cytation 5 is the centerpiece of our workflow; it’s used for R&D, research services, and for the development and quality control of the Cell2Sphere technology,” says Dr. Martin, “It’s used round-the-clock; in fact, so much so that we are considering a second unit to ease the workload.”

To learn more about StemTek Therapeutics, visit their web site.

Thanks to Dr. Angel Garcia Martin at StemTek Therapeutics for sharing his BioTek experience.


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