SW-620 cells constitute the human colorectal cancer cell line of Dukes stage C. They possess high tumorigenic and metastatic potential. Therefore, they are widely employed in cancer and toxicology studies. This article will explore the fundamental aspects of the colon cancer cell line SW-620, with a specific focus on the following points:

  1. Origin and general characteristics of the SW-620 cells
  2. SW-620 cell line: Culturing information
  3. Advantages & Limitations of SW-620 cells
  4. Research applications of SW-620 cell line
  5. SW-620 cells: Publications
  6. Resources for SW-620 cell line: Protocols, Videos, and More

1.      Origin and general characteristics of the SW-620 cells

The origin and general characteristics are the prime information about a cell line. Prior knowledge of this is essential for researchers who consider involving it in their research study. This section of the article will explain the key features and origin of the SW-620 cell line. Mainly, you will learn: What is the SW620 cell line? What are the characteristics of the SW620 cell line? What is the origin of SW620? What is SW-640 cell size? And What is the difference between SW620 and SW480?

  • SW-620, a colorectal carcinoma cell line, originated from the mediatized lymph node lesion of a 51-year-old Caucasian male with colon adenocarcinoma [1]. This cell line was deposited by A Leibovitz and colleagues.
  • SW-620 cells possess an epithelial morphology. It also consists of small round and bipolar cells that match microvilli.
  • The SW-620 cell size is 14.4 ± 0.3 μm in diameter.
  • These colon cancer cells possess a hyperdiploid karyotype. The modal chromosome number for SW-620 cells is 50, which may vary from 45 to 53.

SW-480 Vs SW-620

SW480 and SW620 are colorectal cancer cell lines. SW-480 was derived from a primary tumour, whereas SW-620 was established from a metastasized lymph node. Moreover, xenografts developed from these cell lines differ from each other. SW620 xenografts produce tumour cell sheets, whereas SW480 xenograft form gland-like structures [2]. Both cell lines share identical mutation profiles.

Polyp identified and removed during colon or rectum examination, characterized by a fleshy outgrowth from the inner lining.

2.      SW-620 cell line: Culturing information

Grasping a cell line's basic cell culturing concept is imperative as it can lead to appropriate handling and maintenance. Some key points for culturing SW-620 are mentioned in this section that can help you know: What is the SW-620 media? What is the doubling time of SW-620? How do you culture SW-620 cells?

Key Points for Culturing SW-620 Cells

Doubling Time:

The SW-620 doubling time ranges from 20 to 26 hours.

Adherent or in Suspension:

SW-620 cell line is adherent. The cells form monolayers on the surface of the culture vessel.

Sub-cultivation Ratio:

SW-620 cells are sub-cultured at a split ratio of 1: 3. Adherent cells are rinsed with phosphate saline buffer (1X) without magnesium and calcium. Next, passaging solution, Accutase, is added, and cells are incubated at ambient temperature for 8 to 10 minutes. Fresh media is added, and cells are centrifuged. Afterwards, harvested cells are carefully resuspended in a growth medium and dispensed into new flasks for growth.

Growth Medium:

DMEM media supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum, 4.5 g/L Glucose, 4 mM L-Glutamine, 1.5 g/L NaHCO3, and 1.0 mM Sodium pyruvate is used for the ideal growth of SW-620 cells. Media should be renewed two times per week.

Growth Conditions:

SW-620 colon carcinoma cells are cultured in a humidified incubator at 37°C temperature and with a 5% CO2 source.


After freezing, SW-620 cells are stored at below -150°C temperature in ultra-low temperature freezers or the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen.

Freezing Process and Medium:

CM-1 or CM-ACF is an ideal freezing medium for SW-620 cells. A slow freezing process is used to freeze SW-620 cells. It allows only a 1°C decrease in temperature per minute, thus protecting the cell viability.

Thawing Process:

Frozen SW-620 cells are thawed in a water bath pre-set at 37°C for 40 to 60 seconds. After thawing, culture media is added, and cells are centrifuged to remove freezing media elements. After that, the obtained cell pellet is resuspended in a growth medium, and cells are poured into a new flask for growth.

Biosafety Level:

A biosafety level 1 (BSL-1) laboratory is required for the handling of SW-620 cultures.


Developing spheroid formed from SW-620 cells at 10× and 20× magnification.

3.      Advantages & Limitations of SW-620 cells

This section of the article will shed light on the advantages and limitations associated with the human colorectal cancer cell line SW-620.


The two main advantages of SW-620 cells are:

In-vitro colorectal cancer model

The cell line was derived from the metastatic lymph node of colon cancer, making it a relevant model for studying colon carcinoma biology. It is useful for studying various cancer-related pathways, genes, and mutations.

Tumorigenic and Metastatic Potential

SW-620 is a highly tumorigenic cell line, capable of causing tumours when injected into nude mice (with inhibited immune systems). This characteristic makes it suitable for studying colon cancer in vivo. The cell line exhibits high metastatic potential, making it valuable for investigating metastasis-related cell and molecular pathways.



The drawback associated with the SW-620 cell line is:


The SW-620 cell line is highly susceptible to cross-contamination from other cell lines. This poses a risk to the reliability of experimental results.


4.      Research applications of SW-620 cell line

The research areas where SW-620 cells find promising utility are discussed below:

  • Cancer research: SW-620 is an invaluable cell model to study the biology of colorectal cancer. Researchers employ this in vitro model to explore molecular mechanisms driving cancer cell growth, invasion, and migration. Besides, it can be used to study SW620 cell line mutations, i.e., p53, APC, and KRAS. Research conducted in 2021 examined the effect of SW620 cell line KRAS mutation on the sensitivity of a novel drug FL118. They observed that over-expression of KRAS increases the FL118-induced apoptosis of colorectal cells, whereas its silencing decreases it. These results may help predict FL118 use in colon carcinoma patients with KRAS mutation [3].
  • Drug Screening and Development: SW-620 cell line is widely used to screen and test potential drug candidates against colon cancer. Researchers utilize these cells to evaluate the cytotoxicity and efficacy of drugs which may lead to the development of targeted treatment approaches. Such as a study explored the anti-colorectal cancer activities of single essential oil compounds of cinnamon and clove using the SW-620 cell line [4].
  • Metastasis studies: Due to high metastatic potential, SW-620 cells can be used to investigate molecular pathways underlying cancer cell metastasis. Such as Zhou Yang and his colleagues found the role of the Grainy-head-like 2 (GRHL2) gene in colon cancer progression and metastasis. They proposed that GRHL2 gene expression inhibits colorectal cancer progression and metastasis via suppression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) [5].

5.      SW-620 cells: Publications

This section will dig out some interesting and most cited research publications on the SW-620 cells.

Metabolite of ellagitannins, urolithin A induces autophagy and inhibits metastasis in human sw620 colorectal cancer cells

This study published in Molecular Carcinogenesis (2017) proposed that a polyphenol, urolithin A’s treatment, induces autophagy in the colorectal cancer cell line, SW620. It also suppressed cancer cell metastasis.

Tetrandrine suppresses adhesion, migration and invasion of human colon cancer SW620 cells via inhibition of nuclear factor-κB, matrix metalloproteinase-2 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 signaling pathways

This article in Oncology Letters (2018) explored the anti-metastatic potential of tetrandrine, a bis-benzylisoquinoline alkaloid, using SW-620 cells.

CDCA3 promotes cell proliferation by activating the NF-κB/cyclin D1 signaling pathway in colorectal cancer

This paper is published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (2018). It proposed that CDCA3 (Cell division cycle associated 3) gene is upregulated in colorectal cancer cells and promotes their proliferation via activating NF-κB signalling.

ABL001, a bispecific antibody targeting VEGF and DLL4, with chemotherapy, synergistically inhibits tumor progression in xenograft models

The International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2021) study investigated the synergistic effect of a bispecific antibody (ABL001) and chemotherapeutic drugs on tumour progression in SW620 xenograft.

The Purified Extract from the Medicinal Plant Bacopa monnieri, Bacopaside II, Inhibits Growth of Colon Cancer Cells In Vitro by Inducing Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis

This article is published in the Cells (2018). Herein, Bacopa monnieri, Bacopaside II extract was explored for its antitumor activities in SW-620 and other colorectal cancer cells.

6.      Resources for SW-620 cell line: Protocols, Videos, and More

The following are a few online resources featuring the SW-620 colon carcinoma cells.

  • SW-620 transfection: This article briefly describes the protocol for stable transfection of the SW-620 cell line.

The following link contains the SW620 cell culture protocol.

  • SW-620 cell culture protocol: This link will provide basic information about the SW-620 cell line. It will also assist you in learning the protocol for subculturing SW-620 cells and handling cryopreserved and proliferating SW620 cultures.
  • Cell culture protocols: This video is a great source for learning adherent cell passaging, freezing, and thawing protocols.


  1. Siekmann, W., et al., Effect of lidocaine and ropivacaine on primary (SW480) and metastatic (SW620) colon cancer cell lines. Oncol Lett, 2019. 18(1): p. 395-401.
  2. Hewitt, R.E., et al., Validation of a model of colon cancer progression. J Pathol, 2000. 192(4): p. 446-54.
  3. Thangaiyan, R., et al., Kras mutation subtypes distinctly affect colorectal cancer cell sensitivity to FL118, a novel inhibitor of survivin, Mcl-1, XIAP, cIAP2 and MdmX. American Journal of Translational Research, 2021. 13(7): p. 7458.
  4. Petrocelli, G., et al., Molecules present in plant essential oils for prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC). Molecules, 2021. 26(4): p. 885.
  5. Yang, Z., et al., GRHL2 inhibits colorectal cancer progression and metastasis via oppressing epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Cancer biology & therapy, 2019. 20(9): p. 1195-1205.