CoolCell Used to Freeze Tumor Explants for Mouse Cancer Model

A nude mouse strain was used to model the biological environment experienced by cancer cells. The mouse model mimics tumor progression in human patients. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an independent study published this March in Cancer Letters [1], a research group in Sweden is using CoolCell® cell freezing container for preserving patient-derived cancer tissue.

The cryopreserved tissue is part of a study on a type of cancer called neuroblastoma, which is more common in children than adults. Neuroblastoma is one of the most deadly forms of childhood cancer, often spreading quickly throughout the body despite aggressive treatment. Nevertheless, researchers are determined to stop the disease in its tracks; a team of scientists from Lund University in Sweden believe that the best way to get a handle on fighting neuroblastoma is to develop a highly accurate model of how it progresses.

We’ve blogged about this group’s work before, back when their mouse model was in its preliminary stages. At that time, the group demonstrated the feasibility of their approach, by showing that tumor tissue collected from patients could be transplanted into mice, and retain patient genetic markers and clinically relevant pathology.

In this new publication, the authors describe how the tumor explants contain both neuroblastoma cancer cells and components of the tumor microenvironment. This is important because these components, which include immune cells and other cell types, blood vessel segments, and extracellular matrix, are instrumental in determining how that patient’s disease will progress and spread, and how it will respond to, or resist, therapeutic treatment.

Because a biopsy can be traumatic procedure for a young patient, it’s important that excised tumor tissue can be cryopreserved for multiple tests, and the authors do this with the help of a CoolCell® freezing container. Tissue is stored at -80°C, and thawed immediately before implantation.

The main goal of their research was to discover how much of the patient’s tumor components survive and drive disease progression, and which part of the tumor microenvironment is derived from the mouse itself. The first thing the Lund University scientists noticed was that the extracellular matrix of the tumor explants strongly resembled that of aggressive patient tumors. They were also able to show that patient-derived tumor endothelial cells were able to form tumor vasculature, although the human stroma (connective tissue components) in these tumors was replaced by mouse stroma over time.

There were also differences in persistence of patient-derived tumor components between strains of mice, particularly in the lymphatic system. This suggested that such differences must be considered when designing preclinical drug testing protocols. Overall, however, the author’s findings largely support the conclusion that the tumor explant model is highly clinically relevant; much more so than older mouse models. The authors hope to continue to refine their research.


[1] Braekeveldt N., et al. Neuroblastoma patient-derived orthotopic xenografts reflect the microenvironmental hallmarks of aggressive patient tumours. Cancer Letters. Feb. 2016. DOI: