Advances in patient-derived tumor xenografts: from target identification to predicting clinical response rates in oncology

Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Sep 15;91(2):135-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.06.008. Epub 2014 Jun 17.


Most oncology compounds entering clinical development have passed stringent preclinical pharmacology evaluation criteria. However, only a small fraction of experimental agents induce meaningful antitumor activities in the clinic. Low predictability of conventional preclinical pharmacology models is frequently cited as a main reason for the unusually high clinical attrition rates of therapeutic compounds in oncology. Therefore, improvement in the predictive values of preclinical efficacy models for clinical outcome holds great promise to reduce the clinical attrition rates of experimental compounds. Recent reports suggest that pharmacology studies conducted with patient derived xenograft (PDX) tumors are more predictive for clinical outcome compared to conventional, cell line derived xenograft (CDX) models, in particular when therapeutic compounds were tested at clinically relevant doses (CRDs). Moreover, the study of the most malignant cell types within tumors, the tumor initiating cells (TICs), relies on the availability of preclinical models that mimic the lineage hierarchy of cells within tumors. PDX models were shown to more closely recapitulate the heterogeneity of patient tumors and maintain the molecular, genetic, and histological complexity of human tumors during early stages of sequential passaging in mice, rendering them ideal tools to study the responses of TICs, tumor- and stromal cells to therapeutic intervention. In this commentary, we review the progress made in the development of PDX models in key areas of oncology research, including target identification and validation, tumor indication search and the development of a biomarker hypothesis that can be tested in the clinic to identify patients that will benefit most from therapeutic intervention.

Keywords: Biomarker development; Cancer drug development; Cancer stem cells; Preclinical oncology pharmacology models; Target identification and validation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Heterografts*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Experimental* / drug therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents