To determine whether a heterogeneous collection of salivary gland tumors shared common antigenic characteristics and growth patterns in tissue culture.
Cell cultures were derived from benign and malignant salivary gland neoplasms, cultured conservatively, and serially analyzed for epithelial, myoepithelial, and neuroectodermal antigens.
Nineteen samples reflecting the spectrum of salivary tumor pathologic characteristics were established in tissue culture. Most were derived from benign pleomorphic adenomas, and several were from carcinomas, including carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma, and mucoepidermoid and adenoid cystic carcinoma.
All cultures were epithelial as determined by morphologic and antigenic examination, using antibodies for cytokeratin. The phenotype of cells derived from benign tumors, especially the pleomorphic adenomas, resembled those in the original neoplasm. Those from carcinomas were similar, with less differentiated characteristics. Manipulation of growth conditions altered the phenotypes shown in culture. Some cultures contained cells expressing vascular smooth-muscle actin and glial fibrillary acidic protein or nestin.
This model cell system containing proliferative cells from several tumor types is consistent with a stem-cell theory of salivary gland tumor origin. Our data were not consistent with the bicellular or multicellular theory. We hypothesize a neuroectodermal origin for this group of apparently heterogeneous tumors. These cultured cells will be valuable for in-depth investigation of the loss of proliferation controls in benign and malignant tumors of the salivary gland.(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996;122:551-558)