Cancer cell lines are widely used in basic research to study cancer development, growth, invasion, or metastasis. They are also used for the development and screening of anticancer drugs. However, there are no clear criteria for choosing the most suitable cell lines among the wide variety of cancer cell lines commercially available for research, and the choice is often based on previously published reports. Here, we investigated the characteristics of liver cancer cell lines by analyzing the gene expression data available in the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia. Unsupervised clustering analysis of 28 liver cancer cell lines yielded two main clusters. One cluster showed a gene expression pattern similar to that of hepatocytes, and the other showed a pattern similar to that of fibroblasts. Analysis of hepatocellular carcinoma gene expression profiles available in The Cancer Genome Atlas showed that the gene expression patterns in most hepatoma tissues were similar to those in the hepatocytelike cluster. With respect to liver cancer research, our findings may be useful for selecting an appropriate cell line for a specific study objective. Furthermore, our approach of utilizing a public database for comparing the properties of cell lines could be an attractive cell line selection strategy that can be applied to other fields of research.
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