The therapeutic response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is highly variable, not only between different cancers but also between patients with the same cancer type. The biological mechanisms underlying these differences in response are incompletely understood. Identifying correlates in patient tumor samples is challenging because of genetic and environmental variability. Murine studies usually compare different tumor models or treatments, introducing potential confounding variables. This protocol describes bilateral murine tumor models, derived from syngeneic cancer cell lines, that display a symmetrical yet dichotomous response to ICB. These models enable detailed analysis of whole tumors in a highly homogeneous background, combined with knowledge of the therapeutic outcome within a few weeks, and could potentially be used for mechanistic studies using other (immuno-)therapies. We discuss key considerations and describe how to use two cell lines as fully optimized models. We discuss experimental details, including proper inoculation technique to achieve symmetry and one-sided surgical tumor removal, which takes only 5 min per mouse. Furthermore, we outline the preparation of bulk tissue or single-cell suspensions for downstream analyses such as bulk RNA-seq, immunohistochemistry, single-cell RNA-seq and flow cytometry.
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The raw RNA-seq data used to generate Fig. 6 are available from the Gene Expression Omnibus data repository (accession no. GSE117358).
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We acknowledge the facilities, as well as the scientific and technical assistance of the Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility at the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation & Analysis, The University of Western Australia, a facility funded by the University and State and Commonwealth governments. We thank P. Deng and C. Rinaldi for technical assistance. This work was funded by grant 1103980 from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). W.J.L. was funded by an NHMRC RD Wright Fellowship and a Fellowship from the Cancer Council of Western Australia.
A patent application pertaining to aspects of this work has been filed by R.M.Z., W.J.L., R.A.L., and A.B. (PCT/AU2019/050259, “Method for immunotherapy drug treatment”). A.K.N., M.J.M., A.B., R.A.L., and W.J.L. have received research funding and consultancy fees from Douglas Pharmaceuticals. W.J.L. has received research funding from AstraZeneca and consultancy fees from Merck Sharp & Dohme. A.K.N. declares consultancy or advisory board membership for Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Roche Pharmaceutics, Merck Sharp Dohme, Pharmabcine, Atara Biotherapeutics and Trizell, and research funding from AstraZeneca. M.J.M. has served on advisory boards for Merck Sharp & Dohme, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, and AstraZeneca.
Peer review information Nature Protocols thanks Gottfried Baier and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Key references using this protocol
Zemek, R. M. et al. Sci. Transl. Med. 11, eaav7816 (2019): https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aav7816
Lesterhuis, W. J. et al. Sci. Rep. 5, 12298 (2015): https://doi.org/10.1038/srep12298
Integrated supplementary information
a) Growth curves of C57BL/6 mice bearing subcutaneous B16-F10 tumours, treated with i.p. PBS or (b) with ICB (anti-CTLA4 day 5 and anti-PD-L1 on days 5,7 and 9 post-inoculation) when tumours were at least 9mm2 (n=15 per arm, combined data from 3 experiments).
Gating strategy used to delineate immune cell subsets in mouse tumour and lymph nodes.
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Zemek, R.M., Fear, V.S., Forbes, C. et al. Bilateral murine tumor models for characterizing the response to immune checkpoint blockade. Nat Protoc 15, 1628–1648 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41596-020-0299-3