Avan A, Caretti V, Funel N, Galvani E, Maftouh M, Honeywell RJ, Lagerweij T, Van Tellingen O, Campani D, Fuchs D, Verheul HM, Schuurhuis GJ, Boggi U, Peters GJ, Würdinger T, Giovannetti E
Cancer Res. 2013 Nov 15;73(22):6745-56
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a major unsolved health problem. Most drugs that pass preclinical tests fail in these patients, emphasizing the need of improved preclinical models to test novel anticancer strategies. Here, we developed four orthotopic mouse models using primary human PDAC cells genetically engineered to express firefly- and Gaussia luciferase, simplifying the ability to monitor tumor growth and metastasis longitudinally in individual animals with MRI and high-frequency ultrasound.
In these models, we conducted detailed histopathologic and immunohistochemical analyses on paraffin-embedded pancreatic tissues and metastatic lesions in liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. Genetic characteristics were compared with the originator tumor and primary tumor cells using array-based comparative genomic hybridization, using frozen specimens obtained by laser microdissection. Notably, the orthotopic human xenografts in these models recapitulated the phenotype of human PDACs, including hypovascular and hypoxic areas.
Pursuing genomic and immunohistochemical evidence revealed an increased copy number and overexpression of c-Met in one of the models; we examined the preclinical efficacy of c-Met inhibitors in vitro and in vivo. In particular, we found that crizotinib decreased tumor dimension, prolonged survival, and increased blood and tissue concentrations of gemcitabine, synergizing with a cytidine deaminase-mediated mechanism of action.
Together, these more readily imaged orthotopic PDAC models displayed genetic, histopathologic, and metastatic features similar to their human tumors of origin. Moreover, their use pointed to c-Met as a candidate therapeutic target in PDAC and highlighted crizotinib and gemcitabine as a synergistic combination of drugs warranting clinical evaluation for PDAC treatment.