Zebrafish as a Model Organism for the Development of Drugs for Skin Cancer

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jul 18;18(7):1550. doi: 10.3390/ijms18071550.


Skin cancer, which includes melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, represents the most common type of cutaneous malignancy worldwide, and its incidence is expected to rise in the near future. This condition derives from acquired genetic dysregulation of signaling pathways involved in the proliferation and apoptosis of skin cells. The development of animal models has allowed a better understanding of these pathomechanisms, with the possibility of carrying out toxicological screening and drug development. In particular, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has been established as one of the most important model organisms for cancer research. This model is particularly suitable for live cell imaging and high-throughput drug screening in a large-scale fashion. Thanks to the recent advances in genome editing, such as the clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) methodologies, the mechanisms associated with cancer development and progression, as well as drug resistance can be investigated and comprehended. With these unique tools, the zebrafish represents a powerful platform for skin cancer research in the development of target therapies. Here, we will review the advantages of using the zebrafish model for drug discovery and toxicological and phenotypical screening. We will focus in detail on the most recent progress in the field of zebrafish model generation for the study of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), including cancer cell injection and transgenic animal development. Moreover, we will report the latest compounds and small molecules under investigation in melanoma zebrafish models.

Keywords: drug development; inhibitor screening; melanoma; skin cancer; squamous cell carcinoma; transgenic zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Discovery
  • Humans
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents