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

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Abstract

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
JournalCancers
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
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.

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