Ex Vivo Functional Assay for Evaluating Treatment Response in Tumor Tissue of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) displays a large heterogeneity in treatment response, and consequently in patient prognosis. Despite extensive efforts, no clinically validated model is available to predict tumor response. Here we describe a functional test for predicting tumor response to radiation and chemotherapy on the level of the individual patient. Methods: Resection material of 17 primary HNSCC patients was cultured ex vivo, irradiated or cisplatin-treated, after which the effect on tumor cell vitality was analyzed several days after treatment. Results: Ionizing radiation (IR) affected tumor cell growth and viability with a clear dose-response relationship, and marked heterogeneity between tumors was observed. After a single dose of 5Gy, proliferation in IR-sensitive tumors dropped below 30% of the untreated level, while IR-resistant tumors maintained at least 60% of proliferation. IR-sensitive tumors showed on average a twofold increase in apoptosis, as well as an increased number and size of DNA damage foci after treatment. No differences in the homologous recombination (HR) proficiency between IR-sensitive and –resistant tumors were detected. Cisplatin caused a decrease in proliferation, as well as induction of apoptosis, again with marked variation between the samples. Conclusions: Our functional ex vivo assay discriminated between IR-sensitive and IR-resistant HNSCC tumors, and may also be suitable for predicting response to cisplatin. Its predictive value is currently under investigation in a prospective clinical study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number478
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by KWF Dutch Cancer Society, grant number 12141, and by HollandPTC-Varian consortium-confined call 2019, project number 2019011.

Publisher Copyright: © 2023 by the authors.


Dive into the research topics of 'Ex Vivo Functional Assay for Evaluating Treatment Response in Tumor Tissue of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this