Prospective use of the single-mouse experimental design for the evaluation of PLX038A

Samson Ghilu, Qilin Li, Shaun D. Fontaine, Daniel V. Santi, Raushan T. Kurmasheva, Siyuan Zheng, Peter J. Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: Defining robust criteria for drug activity in preclinical studies allows for fewer animals per treatment group, and potentially allows for inclusion of additional cancer models that more accurately represent genetic diversity and, potentially, allows for tumor sensitivity biomarker identification. Methods: Using a single-mouse design, 32 pediatric xenograft tumor models representing diverse pediatric cancer types [Ewing sarcoma (9), brain (4), rhabdomyosarcoma (10), Wilms tumor (4), and non-CNS rhabdoid tumors (5)] were evaluated for response to a single administration of pegylated-SN38 (PLX038A), a controlled-release PEGylated formulation of SN-38. Endpoints measured were percent tumor regression, and event-free survival (EFS). The correlation between response to PLX038A was compared to that for ten models treated with irinotecan (2.5 mg/kg × 5 days × 2 cycles), using a traditional design (10 mice/group). Correlations between tumor sensitivity, genetic mutations and gene expression were sought. Models showing no disease at week 20 were categorized as ‘extreme responders’ to PLX038A, whereas those with EFS less than 5 weeks were categorized as ‘resistant’. Results: The activity of PLX038A was evaluable in 31/32 models. PLX038A induced > 50% volume regressions in 25 models (78%). Initial tumor volume regression correlated only modestly with EFS (r2 = 0.238), but sensitivity to PLX038A was better correlated with response to irinotecan when one tumor hypersensitive to PLX038A was omitted (r2 = 0.6844). Mutations in 53BP1 were observed in three of six sensitive tumor models compared to none in resistant models (n = 6). Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of using a single-mouse design for assessing the antitumor activity of an agent, while encompassing greater genetic diversity representative of childhood cancers. PLX038A was highly active in most xenograft models, and tumor sensitivity to PLX038A was correlated with sensitivity to irinotecan, validating the single-mouse design in identifying agents with the same mechanism of action. Biomarkers that correlated with model sensitivity included wild-type TP53, or mutant TP53 but with a mutation in 53BP1, thus a defect in DNA damage response. These results support the value of the single-mouse experimental design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalCancer chemotherapy and pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Alternative experimental design
  • Drug evaluation
  • Genetic diversity
  • Pediatric cancer
  • Response criteria
  • Single mouse study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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