In vivo selection of the MDA-MB-231br/eGFP cancer cell line to obtain a clinically relevant rat model for triple negative breast cancer brain metastasis

Valerie de Meulenaere, Benedicte Descamps, Olivier de Wever, Christian Vanhove, Karel Deblaere
PLoS ONE2021
Young triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients are at high risk for developing very aggressive brain metastases associated with a poor prognosis and a high mortality rate. Preclinical models that allow follow-up by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches for brain metastasis. To date, preclinical brain tumor research has almost exclusively relied on xenograft mouse models. Yet, rats are an ideal model for imaging of brain metastasis as their larger brain offers better relative spatial resolution compared to a mouse brain. For the development of a clinically relevant rat model for TNBC brain metastasis, the MDA-MB-231br/eGFP cancer cell line can be used. However, as a result of species-dependent extracranial features, the propensity of the MDA-MB-231br/eGFP cancer cell line to metastasize exclusively to the brain needs to be enhanced by in vivo selection. In this study, repeated sequential passages of metastatic cancer cells obtained from brain metastases in nude rats were performed. Brain metastasis formation was evaluated using preclinical MRI, while bone metastasis formation was assessed using high-resolution computed tomography (CT) and 2-deoxy-2-[18F] fluoro-D-glucose ([18F] FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Our results demonstrated that the metastatic tumor burden in the rat brain (number and volume) significantly increased with increasing passage, while the metastatic tumor burden in the skeleton (i.e., number of metastasis-affected bones) significantly decreased with increasing passage. However, bone metastasis development was not reduced to a negligible amount. Consequently, despite in vivo selection, our rat model is not recommended for investigating brain metastasis as a single disease. Our findings highlight the importance of well-reasoned selection of both the preclinical model and the cancer cell line in order to obtain reliable and reproducible scientific results.

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