Research ArticleCancer

A Validated Tumorgraft Model Reveals Activity of Dovitinib Against Renal Cell Carcinoma

Science Translational Medicine  06 Jun 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 137, pp. 137ra75
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003643

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Grafting a Better Cancer Model

When it comes to predicting drug responsiveness in cancer patients, the standard mouse models (xenografts) get low marks: Drugs that work in these mice are frequently ineffective in humans. Xenograft models are created by injecting human tumor cell lines—which often acquire new mutations in culture—into immunocompromised mice. The resulting tumors are generally different from the original tumor. Tumorgrafts, instead created by implanting fragments of human tumors directly into mice, are generating new excitement among some researchers. Sivanand et al. now describe and validate a tumorgraft model of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that shows promise for preclinical drug studies.

The scientists implanted small fragments of RCC tumor from 94 patients into mice, placing the fragments under the fibrous capsule that surrounds the kidney. Sixteen stable tumor lines—which could be serially passaged to new mice—were ultimately established. Examination by a clinical pathologist revealed that the tumorgrafts were quite similar histologically to the original tumors; gene expression patterns, DNA copy number changes, and most mutations in protein-coding regions were also preserved. In addition, mice bearing tumorgrafts from patients that developed elevated concentrations of serum calcium similarly developed tumor-induced hypercalcemia. Moreover, tumorgraft growth was inhibited by two drugs (sunitinib, approved for treating RCC, and sirolimus, the active metabolite of an approved RCC drug), but did not respond to a lung cancer drug that is inactive against RCC. Finally, dovitinib, an inhibitor of several growth factor receptors that is being studied in clinical trials, suppressed the tumorgrafts more potently than sunitinib or sirolimus, suggesting that dovitinib would be active against RCC in humans.

These results apply more broadly: The tumorgrafts should be useful for testing other targeted drugs preclinically—an important need, given that most anticancer drugs that enter clinical trials fail to gain approval.