Fior, R., Póvoa, V., Mendes, R.V., Carvalho, T., Gomes, A., Figueiredo, N., Ferreira, M.G. (2017) Single-cell functional and chemosensitive profiling of combinatorial colorectal therapy in zebrafish xenografts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114(39):E8234-E8243.
Cancer is as unique as the person fighting it. With the exception of a few biomarker-driven therapies, patients go through rounds of trial-and-error approaches to find the best treatment. Using patient-derived cell lines, we show that zebrafish larvae xenotransplants constitute a fast and highly sensitive in vivo model for differential therapy response, with resolution to reveal intratumor functional cancer heterogeneity. We screened international colorectal cancer therapeutic guidelines and determined distinct functional tumor behaviors (proliferation, metastasis, and angiogenesis) and differential sensitivities to standard therapy. We observed a general higher sensitivity to FOLFIRI [5-fluorouracil(FU)+irinotecan+folinic acid] than to FOLFOX (5-FU+oxaliplatin+folinic acid), not only between isogenic tumors but also within the same tumor. We directly compared zebrafish xenografts with mouse xenografts and show that relative sensitivities obtained in zebrafish are maintained in the rodent model. Our data also illustrate how KRAS mutations can provide proliferation advantages in relation to KRASWT and how chemotherapy can unbalance this advantage, selecting for a minor clone resistant to chemotherapy. Zebrafish xenografts provide remarkable resolution to measure Cetuximab sensitivity. Finally, we demonstrate the feasibility of using primary patient samples to generate zebrafish patient-derived xenografts (zPDX) and provide proof-of-concept experiments that compare response to chemotherapy and biological therapies between patients and zPDX. Altogether, our results suggest that zebrafish larvae xenografts constitute a promising fast assay for precision medicine, bridging the gap between genotype and phenotype in an in vivo setting.