A simple, quantitative method using alginate gel to determine rat colonic tumor volume in vivo

Comp Med. 2014 Apr;64(2):128-34.


Many studies of the response of colonic tumors to therapeutics use tumor multiplicity as the endpoint to determine the effectiveness of the agent. These studies can be greatly enhanced by accurate measurements of tumor volume. Here we present a quantitative method to easily and accurately determine colonic tumor volume. This approach uses a biocompatible alginate to create a negative mold of a tumor-bearing colon; this mold is then used to make positive casts of dental stone that replicate the shape of each original tumor. The weight of the dental stone cast correlates highly with the weight of the dissected tumors. After refinement of the technique, overall error in tumor volume was 16.9% ± 7.9% and includes error from both the alginate and dental stone procedures. Because this technique is limited to molding of tumors in the colon, we utilized the Apc(Pirc/+) rat, which has a propensity for developing colonic tumors that reflect the location of the majority of human intestinal tumors. We have successfully used the described method to determine tumor volumes ranging from 4 to 196 mm³. Alginate molding combined with dental stone casting is a facile method for determining tumor volume in vivo without costly equipment or knowledge of analytic software. This broadly accessible method creates the opportunity to objectively study colonic tumors over time in living animals in conjunction with other experiments and without transferring animals from the facility where they are maintained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alginates*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Sulfate*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Rats
  • Tumor Burden


  • Alginates
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Calcium Sulfate