A zebrafish xenograft model for studying human cancer stem cells in distant metastasis and therapy response

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Lethal and incurable bone metastasis is one of the main causes of death in multiple types of cancer. A small subpopulation of cancer stem/progenitor-like cells (CSCs), also known as tumor-initiating cells from heterogenetic cancer is considered to mediate bone metastasis. Although over the past decades numerous studies have been performed in different types of cancer, it is still difficult to track small numbers of CSCs during the onset of metastasis. With use of noninvasive high-resolution imaging, transparent zebrafish embryos can be employed to dynamically visualize cancer progression and reciprocal interaction with stroma in a living organism. Recently we established a zebrafish CSC-xenograft model to visually and functionally analyze the role of CSCs and their interactions with the microenvironment at the onset of metastasis. Given the highly conserved human and zebrafish genome, transplanted human cancer cells are able to respond to zebrafish cytokines, modulate the zebrafish microenvironment, and take advantage of the zebrafish stroma during cancer progression. This chapter delineates the zebrafish CSC-xenograft model as a useful tool for both CSC biological study and anticancer drug screening.

Methods in Cell Biology