Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models have shown to reflect original patient tumors better than any other preclinical model. We embarked in a study establishing a large panel of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas PDX for biomarker analysis and evaluation of established and novel compounds. Out of 115 transplanted specimens 52 models were established of which 29 were characterized for response to docetaxel, cetuximab, methotrexate, carboplatin, 5-fluorouracil and everolimus. Further, tumors were subjected to sequencing analysis and gene expression profiling of selected mTOR pathway members. Most frequent response was observed for docetaxel and cetuximab. Responses to carboplatin, 5-fluorouracil and methotrexate were moderate. Everolimus revealed activity in the majority of PDX. Mutational profiling and gene expression analysis did not reveal a predictive biomarker for everolimus even though by trend RPS6KB1 mRNA expression was associated with response. In conclusion we demonstrate a comprehensively characterized panel of head and neck cancer PDX models, which represent a valuable and renewable tissue resource for evaluation of novel compounds and associated biomarkers.
Preclinical drug evaluation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is challenged by the inability of established cell lines to predict clinical impact. It may be possible to overcome that problem with patient-derived xenografts (PDX), which more closely reflect tumor characteristics. Here, a large collection of PDXs were established for HNSCC and tested for therapeutic response. The mTOR inhibitor everolimus was found to be active in a majority of the models. Biomarkers capable of predicting tumor response to everolimus were not identified, though increased expression of RPS6KB1, a member of the mTOR pathway, was common among responders.