Glioblastomas (GBMs) are the most malignant brain tumors and are essentially incurable even after extensive surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, mainly because of extensive infiltration of tumor cells into the adjacent normal tissue. Thus, the evaluation of novel drugs in malignant glioma treatment requires sophisticated ex vivo models that approach the authentic interplay between tumor and host environment while avoiding extensive in vivo studies in animals. This paper describes the standardized setup of an organotypic brain tissue slice tandem-culture system, comprising of normal brain tissue from adult mice and tumor tissue from human glioblastoma xenografts, and explore its utility for assessing inhibitory effects of test drugs. The microscopic analysis of vertical sections of the slice tandem-cultures allows for the simultaneous assessment of (i) the invasive potential of single cells or cell aggregates and (ii) the space occupying growth of the bulk tumor mass, both contributing to malignant tumor progression. The comparison of tissue slice co-cultures with spheroids vs. tissue slice tandem-cultures using tumor xenograft slices demonstrates advantages of the xenograft tandem approach. The direct and facile application of test drugs is shown to exert inhibitory effects on bulk tumor growth and/or tumor cell invasion, and allows their precise quantitation. In conclusion, we describe a straightforward ex vivo system mimicking the in vivo situation of the tumor mass and the normal brain in GBM patients. It reduces animal studies and allows for the direct and reproducible application of test drugs and the precise quantitation of their effects on the bulk tumor mass and on the tumor's invasive properties.
Keywords: Pim-1; STAT3; ex vivo model; glioblastoma; tissue slice co-cultures; tumor invasion; tumor xenografts.