Generation of patient-derived xenografts from fine needle aspirates or core needle biopsy

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Patient-derived xenografts have recently become a powerful tool for cancer research and may be used to guide personalized therapy. Thus far, patient-derived xenografts have been grown from tumor tissue obtained after operative resection; however, many cancer patients never undergo operative intervention for a variety of reasons. We hypothesized that xenograft tumors could be grown from smaller volumes of patient tissue, such as those obtained during diagnostic biopsies.


Surgical specimens were obtained after resection of primary or metastatic lesions of the following cancers: pancreatic carcinoma, non–small cell lung cancer, bladder (urothelial) carcinoma, and melanoma. At least 10 cases of each cancer were included in this study. To mimic clinical biopsies, small fragments of the surgical specimens were biopsied with a 22-gauge needle, and the needle contents were injected subcutaneously in immunocompromised mice. The tumor fragment from which the biopsy was taken was also implanted subcutaneously in the contralateral side of the same mouse as a control.


Success rates of the traditional method of xenograft implantation ranged from 27.3%–70%. Success rates of the fine needle aspirate technique ranged from 0%–36.4%. An attempt to engraft a percutaneous core needle liver biopsy of a metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma also was successful.


We have found that it is possible to engraft fine needle aspirates and core biopsies of solid tumors in order to generate patient-derived xenografts. This may open up xenografting to a wider cancer patient population than previously possible.

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