Relationships between drug activity in NCI preclinical in vitro and in vivo models and early clinical trials

Br J Cancer. 2001 May 18;84(10):1424-31. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2001.1796.


An analysis of the activity of compounds tested in pre-clinical in vivo and in vitro assays by the National Cancer Institute's Developmental Therapeutics Program was performed. For 39 agents with both xenograft data and Phase II clinical trials results available, in vivo activity in a particular histology in a tumour model did not closely correlate with activity in the same human cancer histology, casting doubt on the correspondence of the pre-clinical models to clinical results. However, for compounds with in vivo activity in at least one-third of tested xenograft models, there was correlation with ultimate activity in at least some Phase II trials. Thus, an efficient means of predicting activity in vivo models remains desirable for compounds with anti-proliferative activity in vitro. For 564 compounds tested in the hollow fibre assay which were also tested against in vivo tumour models, the likelihood of finding xenograft activity in at least one-third of the in vivo models tested rose with increasing intraperitoneal hollow fibre activity, from 8% for all compounds tested to 20% in agents with evidence of response in more than 6 intraperitoneal fibres (P< 0.0001). Intraperitoneal hollow fibre activity was also found to be a better predictor of xenograft activity than either subcutaneous hollow fibre activity or intraperitoneal plus subcutaneous activity combined. Since hollow fibre activity was a useful indicator of potential in vivo response, correlates with hollow fibre activity were examined for 2304 compounds tested in both the NCI 60 cell line in vitro cancer drug screen and hollow fibre assay. A positive correlation was found for histologic selectivity between in vitro and hollow fibre responses. The most striking correlation was between potency in the 60 cell line screen and hollow fibre activity; 56% of compounds with mean 50% growth inhibition below 10(-7.5) M were active in more than 6 intraperitoneal fibres whereas only 4% of compounds with a potency of 10(-4) M achieved the same level of hollow fibre activity (P< 0.0001). Structural parameters of the drugs analysed included compound molecular weight and hydrogen-bonding factors, both of which were found to be predictive of hollow fibre activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents