Development of a miniaturized, improved nucleic acid precursor incorporation assay for chemosensitivity testing of human solid tumors

Cancer Res. 1985 Nov;45(11 Pt 1):5436-41.


Two technological problems limit the usefulness of chemosensitivity assays: low success rates (generally 30-60%); and the requirement for large numbers of tumor cells (5 X 10(5)/dish). To solve these problems, we developed a miniaturized, improved, nucleic acid precursor incorporation assay (MINI-assay). In this new assay, 0.3-1.5 X 10(5) tumor cells were plated in double-layer agarose in 16-mm wells of a Costar (No. 3524) 24-well cluster dish. After 72 h of incubation, 5 microCi [3H]thymidine were added to each well. After an additional 24 h of incubation, the trichloroacetic acid-precipitable material was collected and counted by liquid scintillation. We found that 280 of 351 (80%) human solid tumors gave evaluable chemosensitivity results. Labeling efficiency was optimum when the plating density was between 1.5 and 3 X 10(4) cells/well. Radioisotope uptake was less efficient in 35-mm Petri dishes and in the 7-mm wells. The MINI-assay was particularly suitable for small specimens (less than 1 g) and for tumor types that usually yield small numbers of viable tumor cells (19 of 30 breast cancers and 56 of 71 sarcomas were evaluable). The artifacts of colony counting (cell clumps, debris, clots) were also eliminated with this assay. With high evaluability rates, the requirement of fewer cells, a short duration (5 days), and ease of quantitation, the MINI-assay is widely applicable to chemosensitivity testing in human tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agar / pharmacology
  • Cell Count
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay / methods*
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Sepharose / pharmacology
  • Thymidine / metabolism*
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay / methods*


  • Culture Media
  • Agar
  • Sepharose
  • Thymidine