Subcutaneous and intrahepatic growth of human hepatoblastoma in immunodeficient mice

J. Marco Schnater, Elisabeth Bruder, Sibylle Bertschin, Thomas Woodtli, Chiel de Theije, Torsten Pietsch, Daniel C. Aronson, Dietrich von Schweinitz, Wouter H. Lamers, Eleonore S. Köhler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: Hepatoblastoma is the most frequent malignant pediatric liver tumor. Approximately 25% of hepatoblastoma patients cannot be cured with current treatment protocols. Additional treatment options must, therefore, be developed. Subcutaneous animal models for hepatoblastoma exist, but a more physiologic intrahepatic model is lacking. Methods: The α-fetoprotein-expressing hepatoblastoma-cell lines HepT1, HuH6 and the childhood hepatocellular carcinoma-cell line HepG2 were injected subcutaneously and intrasplenically into NMRI nu/nu mice. Tumor growth was monitored by measuring tumor size for subcutaneous and serum human α-fetoprotein levels for intra-abdominal tumors. Tumors were characterized microscopically. Results: Subcutaneous tumor growth occurred in 70% (7/10) of mice injected with HuH6 and 50% (5/10) of mice injected with HepG2. HepT1 did not form tumors. Accumulation of serum α-fetoprotein reflected tumor growth. Intrasplenic growth was seen in 50% (14/27, HuH6) and 10% (3/10, HepG2) of the mice, with only HuH6 forming intrahepatic tumors in 25% (7/27) of the mice. Growth pattern and α-fetoprotein production were similar at the subcutaneous and intra-abdominal location. Intrahepatic grafting occurred by metastatic spread from the spleen, produced well-defined nodules, and was accompanied by a weakened expression of the hepatocyte marker carbamoylphosphate synthetase, and the canalicular markers CD10 and cytokeratin7. The expression of cytokeratin18 and -19, active caspase3, and β-catenin was increased. There were no lung metastases. Conclusions: We established an intrahepatic mouse model for human hepatoblastoma, in which tumor growth could be monitored by serum α-fetoprotein levels. Engrafting in the liver occurred by metastatic spread from the spleen and was accompanied by some loss of differentiation features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-386
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006
Externally publishedYes


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