Tumor location impacts immune response in mouse models of colon cancer

Xianda Zhao, Lihua Li, Timothy K. Starr, Subbaya Subramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Existing preclinical models of human colorectal cancer (CRC) that rely on syngeneic subcutaneous grafts are problematic, because of increasing evidence that the immune microenvironment in subcutaneous tissue is significantly different from the gastrointestinal tract. Similarly, existing orthotopic models that use a laparotomy for establishing grafts are also problematic, because the surgical procedure results in extensive inflammation, thereby creating a nonphysiologic tumor microenvironment. To facilitate the bench-to-bedside translation of CRC immunotherapy strategies, we developed a novel orthotopic model in mice that uses endoscopy-guided microinjection of syngeneic cancer cells. When we compared immune system infiltration, we found that tumors in the subcutaneous model had fewer T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells, but more immunosuppressive myeloid cells; in contrast, tumors in our orthotopic model had a higher number of tumor-infiltrating T cells, B cells, and NK cells, with fewer immunosuppressive myeloid cells. The number of immune-stimulating cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6, interferon (IFN)-gamma, and granzyme B, was also higher in tumors in our model, as compared with the subcutaneous model. Those differences resulted in heightened sensitivity to immune checkpoint blockade therapy in our endoscopy-guided orthotopic CRC model. Our study indicates that tumor location affects immune response in CRC mouse models; choosing the appropriate preclinical model is important when testing immunotherapy in CRC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54775-54787
Number of pages13
Issue number33
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by startup fund provided to SS by the Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota. TKS is supported by the Mezin-Koats Colon Cancer Research Fund, the Department of Defense (W81XWH-16-1-0427), and the Masonic Cancer Center (NCI/NIH Project grant P30-CA77598). Graduate fellowship of XZ is supported by the Department of Surgery GI research fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© Zhao et al.


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Immune profiles
  • Immunotherapy
  • Mouse models of cancer
  • Orthotopic models


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