Ex vivo to in vivo model of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors for precision oncology

Alex T. Larsson, Himanshi Bhatia, Ana Calizo, Kai Pollard, Xiaochun Zhang, Eric Conniff, Justin F. Tibbitts, Elizabeth Rono, Katherine Cummins, Sara H. Osum, Kyle B. Williams, Alexandra L. Crampton, Tyler Jubenville, Daniel Schefer, Kuangying Yang, Yang Lyu, James C. Pino, Jessica Bade, John M. Gross, Alla LisokCarina A. Dehner, John S.A. Chrisinger, Kevin He, Sara J.C. Gosline, Christine A. Pratilas, David A. Largaespada, David K. Wood, Angela C. Hirbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST) are aggressive soft tissue sarcomas that often develop in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). To address the critical need for novel therapeutics in MPNST, we aimed to establish an ex vivo 3D platform that accurately captured the genomic diversity of MPNST and could be utilized in a medium-throughput manner for drug screening studies to be validated in vivo using patient-derived xenografts (PDX). Methods. Genomic analysis was performed on all PDX-tumor pairs. Selected PDX were harvested for assembly into 3D microtissues. Based on prior work in our labs, we evaluated drugs (trabectedin, olaparib, and mirdametinib) ex vivo and in vivo. For 3D microtissue studies, cell viability was the endpoint as assessed by Zeiss Axio Observer. For PDX drug studies, tumor volume was measured twice weekly. Bulk RNA sequencing was performed to identify pathways enriched in cells. Results. We developed 13 NF1-associated MPNST-PDX and identified mutations or structural abnormalities in NF1 (100%), SUZ12 (85%), EED (15%), TP53 (15%), CDKN2A (85%), and chromosome 8 gain (77%). We successfully assembled PDX into 3D microtissues, categorized as robust (>90% viability at 48 h), good (>50%), or unusable (<50%). We evaluated drug response to “robust” or “good” microtissues, namely MN-2, JH-2-002, JH-2-079-c, and WU-225. Drug response ex vivo predicted drug response in vivo, and enhanced drug effects were observed in select models. Conclusions. These data support the successful establishment of a novel 3D platform for drug discovery and MPNST biology exploration in a system representative of the human condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2044-2057
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Neuro-Oncology.


  • 3D microtissues
  • PDX
  • drug screening
  • genomic variants


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