European experts highlight the potential of xenografts in personalized oncology


European research lays the foundation for the development of new and ambitious research projects with xenografts derived from patients, preclinical models with great potential to advance research and treatment in cancer. The review article, published in Nature Reviews Cancer, is the result of the joint work of the European consortium of researchers EurOPDX, which includes different researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) – Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), among which there are Eva González-Suárez and Alberto Villanueva.

Patient-derived xenografts are tumor samples that are extracted from patients and reimplanted in mice subcutaneously (PDXs) or orthotopically (PDOX or orthoxenografts), i.e., in the same location as in the patient. This mechanism constitutes an emerging platform to search for new treatments and biomarkers in oncology, since it allows to reproduce the behavior of each tumor in a personalized way and to test several treatment alternatives, integrating the genetic alterations characteristic of each tumor with the treatment. “This review addresses the hottest topics in the field of subcutaneous models and orthoxenografts,” explains Dr. Villanueva. “There are very important issues, such as how these models can be used for drug assessment, personalized medicine and cancer immunotherapy. This is a very broad review, based on a large amount of data from all members of the EurOPDX consortium of which we are part”.

The EurOPDX consortium, created in 2013, integrates 16 European research institutions with extensive experience in basic, preclinical, translational and clinical oncology. Among its objectives is the creation of a collection of orthotopic and subcutaneous models for more than 30 diseases, the creation of a platform that allows the performance of preclinical studies at a multicentric level and the homogenization of methods and work practices to ensure the reproducibility of these studies.

At the Spanish level there are three research centers that make up the consortium. “At IDIBELL-ICO we are the European experts in orthohxenografts. More than 90% of these models have been generated in our facilities”, says Dr. Villanueva, who in addition to being part of the proCURE research program of IDIBELL-ICO leads the spin-off company Xenopat, which specializes precisely in this type of model and in its use both for drug development and for performing personalized oncology studies.

Currently, the EurOPDX network of researchers is working to carry out a large-scale project – undergoing Horizon 2020 evaluation – which will attempt to validate a multicentric preclinical study with these models, that is, to demonstrate that the analysis of a single tumor of a single patient can yield the same results in different centers.

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