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J Vis Exp. 2018 Jun 28;(136). doi: 10.3791/56650.

Pre-Conditioning the Airways of Mice with Bleomycin Increases the Efficiency of Orthotopic Lung Cancer Cell Engraftment.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine.
Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine; Department of Medical Oncology, Yale University School of Medicine;


Lung cancer is a deadly treatment refractory disease that is biologically heterogeneous. To understand and effectively treat the full clinical spectrum of thoracic malignancies, additional animal models that can recapitulate diverse human lung cancer subtypes and stages are needed. Allograft or xenograft models are versatile and enable the quantification of tumorigenic capacity in vivo, using malignant cells of either murine or human origin. However, previously described methods of lung cancer cell engraftment have been performed in non-physiological sites, such as the flank of mice, due to the inefficiency of orthotopic transplantation of cells into the lungs. In this study, we describe a method to enhance orthotopic lung cancer cell engraftment by pre-conditioning the airways of mice with the fibrosis inducing agent bleomycin. As a proof-of-concept experiment, we applied this approach to engraft tumor cells of the lung adenocarcinoma subtype, obtained from either mouse or human sources, into various strains of mice. We demonstrate that injuring the airways with bleomycin prior to tumor cell injection increases the engraftment of tumor cells from 0-17% to 71-100%. Significantly, this method enhanced lung tumor incidence and subsequent outgrowth using different models and mouse strains. In addition, engrafted lung cancer cells disseminate from the lungs into relevant distant organs. Thus, we provide a protocol that can be used to establish and maintain new orthotopic models of lung cancer with limiting amounts of cells or biospecimen and to quantitatively assess the tumorigenic capacity of lung cancer cells in physiologically relevant settings.

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