Generation of orthotopic and heterotopic human pancreatic cancer xenografts in immunodeficient mice

Nat Protoc. 2009;4(11):1670-80. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2009.171. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


For decades, xenografts using well-established human tumor cell lines have been the most commonly used models to study human cancers in mice. More recently, human tumors implanted directly into immunodeficient mice have become increasingly popular as evidence accrues that they more accurately recapitulate features of patient tumors. Here we describe our protocols for the orthotopic and heterotopic implantation of pancreatic cancer cell lines and freshly isolated patient tumors into immunodeficient mice. We also describe procedures for the digestion of tumors into single-cell suspensions for the isolation of subpopulations of tumor cells. Orthotopic or heterotopic implantation of established cell lines requires 1-2 h, with 1-cm tumors arising after 2-5 weeks. Engraftment of patient tumor samples takes approximately 2 h and growth of palpable tumor requires approximately 14 weeks. Once established, direct xenograft tumors require 2 and 5 h for heterotopic and orthotopic implantation, respectively, and 5-6 weeks for palpable tumor growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Transplantation / methods*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms*
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / methods*