Gaudenzi, G., Albertelli, M., Dicitore, A., Würth, R., Gatto, F., Barbieri, F., Cotelli, F., Florio, T., Ferone, D., Persani, L., Vitale, G. (2017) Patient-derived xenograft in zebrafish embryos: a new platform for translational research in neuroendocrine tumors. Endocrine. 57(2):214-219.
Preclinical research on neuroendocrine tumors usually involves immortalized cell lines and few animal models. In the present study we described an in vivo model based on patient-derived xenografts of neuroendocrine tumor cells in zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos, allowing a rapid analysis of the angiogenic and invasive potential. Patient-derived neuroendocrine tumor cells were transplanted in 48 hours post-fertilization Tg(fli1a:EGFP) y1 zebrafish embryos that express enhanced green fluorescent protein in the entire vasculature. Neuroendocrine tumor cells, stained with CM-Dil, were injected into the subperidermal (perivitelline) space, close to the developing subintestinal venous plexus. A proper control group, represented by zebrafish injected with only D-PBS, was included in this study. Angiogenic and invasive potentials of each patient-derived xenograft were evaluated by both epifluorescence and confocal microscopes. Six out of eight neuroendocrine tumor samples were successfully transplanted in zebrafish embryos. Although the implanted tumor mass had a limited size (about 100 cells for embryos), patient-derived xenografts showed pro-angiogenic (5 cases) and invasive (6 cases) behaviors within 48 hours post injection. Patient-derived xenograft in zebrafish embryos appears to be a reliable in vivo preclinical model for neuroendocrine tumors, tumors with often limited cell availability. The rapidity of this procedure makes our model a promising platform to perform preclinical drug screening and opens a new scenario for personalized treatment in patients with neuroendocrine tumors.