Ex vivo assessment of chemotherapy-induced apoptosis and associated molecular changes in patient tumor samples

Pirnia, Farzaneh; Frese, Steffen; Gloor, Beat; Hotz, Michel A; Luethi, Alexander; Gugger, Mathias; Betticher, Daniel C; Borner, Markus M (2006). Ex vivo assessment of chemotherapy-induced apoptosis and associated molecular changes in patient tumor samples. Anticancer research, 26(3A), pp. 1765-72. Kapandriti: International Inst. of Anticancer Research

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BACKGROUND: There are inherent conceptual problems in investigating the pharmacodynamics of cancer drugs in vivo. One of the few possible approaches is serial biopsies in patients. However, this type of research is severely limited by methodological and ethical constraints. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A modified 3-dimensional tissue culture technique was used to culture human tumor samples, which had been collected during routine cancer operations. Twenty tumor samples of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were cultured ex vivo for 120 h and treated with mitomycin C, taxotere and cisplatin. The cytotoxic activity of the anticancer agents was quantified by assessing the metabolic activity of treated tumor cultures and various assays of apoptosis and gene expression were performed. RESULTS: The proliferative activity of the tissue was maintained in culture as assessed by Ki-67 staining. Mitomycin C, cisplatin and taxotere reduced the metabolic activity of the tumor tissue cultures by 51%, 29% and 20%, respectively, at 120 h. The decrease in metabolic activity corresponded to the induction of apoptosis as demonstrated by the typical morphological changes, such as chromatin condensation and nuclear fragmentation. In addition, activated caspase-3 could be verified in apoptotic cells by immunohistochemistry. To verify functional aspects of apoptosis, the induction of chemotherapy-induced cell death was inhibited with the caspase inhibitor z-VAD.fmk. RNA was extracted from the tissue cultures after 120 h of ex vivo drug treatment and was of sufficient quality to allow quantitative PCR. CONCLUSION: The 3-dimensional ex vivo culture technique is a useful method to assess the molecular effects of pharmacological interventions in human cancer samples in vitro. This culture technique could become an important tool for drug development and for the prediction of in vivo drug efficacy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Haematology, Oncology, Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Medicine and Hospital Pharmacy (DOLS) > Clinic of Medical Oncology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gastro-intestinal, Liver and Lung Disorders (DMLL) > Clinic of Thoracic Surgery
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders (ENT)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Pathology

UniBE Contributor:

Pirnia Borner, Farzaneh; Frese, Steffen R.; Hotz, Michael André; Gugger, Mathias and Borner, Markus






International Inst. of Anticancer Research




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:46

Last Modified:

04 May 2014 23:13

PubMed ID:


Web of Science ID:



https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/18985 (FactScience: 1268)

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