New animal models have been developed that faithfully reproduce the evolution and malignancy of different human tumors. This research was published in Cancer Research (2015; doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-1606).

These models facilitate parallel tumor progression, both in patients suffering from the disease and in animal laboratory mice. They can predict possible relapses and anticipate what will be most effective treatments.

The technique, developed by a team from the Catalan Institute of Oncology and Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (ICO-IDIBELL) in Barcelona, Spain, relies on the use of orthotopic mice models (orthoxenograft). These are made by implanting human tumors in the appropriate body of the mouse. For example, when a patient is examined by biopsy or tumor is extracted, it can be implanted in the same organ in the mouse.

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Thus, the animal model reproduces histologic, genetic, and epigenetic characteristics of the human tumor and its patterns of spread. These are not achieved with other methods of implementing tumor modeling. The authors described it as incorporating “the robustness of genetically engineered cancer models with the flexibility of allograft methodology.”

Meanwhile, you can apply the same treatment to the patient in the mouse, and monitor its progress. This opens the door assessing relapse risk and assessing the most effective treatment while reducing side effects. This allows for personalized therapy, since each patient would have a corresponding animal model.

The ICO-IDIBELL team, in collaboration with the CNIO in Madrid, and the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, has successfully obtained models in colon, lung, and ovarian cancer. The current publication states that the system can “improve the design of future treatments for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.”