The availability of human myeloma cell lines (HMCLs) has drastically benefited out understanding of multiple myeloma (MM). They represent essential resources to the myeloma research community at large who use them to identify and more importantly validate oncogenic events in MM. Furthermore, they represent the front line tools in efforts to identify novel therapeutic agents for MM patients. However, the myeloma research community is not immune to problems of cell line contamination (mixed populations) or systemic errors where HMCLs are labeled incorrectly. As the community evolves towards the development of tailor medicine it is essential that our basic tools are both pure and correct. Otherwise, a potentially beneficial therapeutic agent designed for a specific patient subset maybe lost simply because of a simple laboratory mix-up at some point over the years. To that end we have developed a simple PCR based method that can be used to validate the purity and authenticity of HMCLs. First two reference collections of over 50 HMCL maintained at the NCI and Mayo Clinic Arizona were compared using microsatellite fingerprinting. This process identified several previously unnoticed discrepancies. First, in both labs several cell lines that reportedly originated from different patients had the same fingerprints. These include the following unexpected pairs; ANBL-6 and DP–6, CAG and ARP–1, KMS–11 and KMS–20, KMS–11 and KMS–21PE/BM, JIM3 and KPMM2. Second, both KP–6 and KAS6/1 showed a level of cross-contamination with ANBL–6. All of the discrepant cell lines were requested from the original contributor and those that were available were retested. After this step we had identified unique fingerprints for ANBL–6, DP–6, KMS–11, and KMS–20. Furthermore, pure populations of KP–6 and KAS6/1 were confirmed. However, CAG and ARP–1 still had an identical fingerprint. Since the use of microsatellite fingerprinting is an expensive task and the identification of cross-contamination is not very robust we set out to develop better method. We decided to use a simple qualitative PCR method, as the binomial presence or absence of a band makes the interpretation of the fingerprint extremely easy. Furthermore, the high sensitivity of a qualitative PCR can pick up a small amount of contamination in the culture that can be lost in microsatellite analysis. This method involves a multiplex PCR screen that simultaneously interrogates 10 regions of the human genome. The screen is divided into two reactions, one with a panel of highly polymorphic copy number variations (CNV) that are often completely absent in some individuals, and a second one based on known biologic events present in the cell lines. The integration of the results from the CNV and Biological Fingerprints will identify each HMCL as a unique entity. We validated the methodology by confirming that this qualitative screen could pick up the cross–contamination identified in the original KP–6 and KAS6/1 samples. As our understanding of myeloma increases and we strive to develop new therapies for specific biological entities it will be essential that groups confirm both the authenticity and purity of their test cultures. We hope that widespread use of this simple screening methodology will significantly improve the quality and reproducibility of assays carried out in labs around the world.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.