Basic Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2018. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Jul 7, 2018; 24(25): 2710-2721
Published online Jul 7, 2018. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v24.i25.2710
Intra-individual comparison of therapeutic responses to vascular disrupting agent CA4P between rodent primary and secondary liver cancers
Ye-Wei Liu, Frederik De Keyzer, Yuan-Bo Feng, Feng Chen, Shao-Li Song, Johan Swinnen, Guy Bormans, Raymond Oyen, Gang Huang, Yi-Cheng Ni
Ye-Wei Liu, Gang Huang, Shanghai Key Laboratory for Molecular Imaging, Shanghai University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Shanghai 201318, China
Ye-Wei Liu, Frederik De Keyzer, Yuan-Bo Feng, Feng Chen, Johan Swinnen, Guy Bormans, Raymond Oyen, Yi-Cheng Ni, Biomedical Group, Campus Gasthuisberg, KU Leuven, Leuven 3000, Belgium
Ye-Wei Liu, Shao-Li Song, Gang Huang, Institute of Clinical Nuclear Medicine, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200127, China
Ye-Wei Liu, Gang Huang, Institute of Health Sciences, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (SJTUSM) & Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences (SIBS), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Shanghai 200025, China
Author contributions: Ni YC, Liu YW, Huang G, Swinnen J, Bormans G and Oyen R designed the research; Liu YW, Feng YB, Chen F and Ni YC performed the research; Liu YW, De Keyzer F and Chen F analyzed the data; Liu YW, Ni YC and Song SL prepared the manuscript; Ni YC, Swinnen J, Bormans G and Oyen R reviewed the manuscript; all authors approved the final version for publication.
Institutional review board statement: This study was reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of KU Leuven.
Institutional animal care and use committee statement: This animal experiment was performed in compliance with European and national regulations after approval by KU Leuven university ethics committee (P147/2013) for animal care and use.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.
Data sharing statement: No additional data are available.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Yi-Cheng Ni, MD, PhD, Full Professor, Theragnostic Laboratory, Department of Imaging and Pathology, Biomedical Group, KU Leuven, Herestraat 49, Leuven 3000, Belgium.
Telephone: +32-16-330165 Fax: +32-16-343765
Received: March 5, 2018
Peer-review started: March 6, 2018
First decision: March 14, 2018
Revised: April 1, 2018
Accepted: April 9, 2018
Article in press: April 9, 2018
Published online: July 7, 2018
Research background

Previously, all favorable responses to the vascular disrupting agent (VDA) combretastatin-A4-phosphate (CA4P) on implanted liver tumors were derived from animals with healthy liver. Yet, the diverse and paradoxical responses to CA4P on primary hepatomas have been from rats with cirrhotic liver.

Research motivation

Therapeutic responses of CA4P between primary and secondary hepatic tumors had never been compared intra-individually in the same rats with underlying liver cirrhosis. And, the potential microenvironmental impact from the surrounding liver parenchyma needed to be assessed further.

Research objectives

We aimed to compare therapeutic responses of CA4P among carcinogen-induced primary hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and surgically implanted rhabdomyosarcoma (R1) in the same rats by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), microangiography and histopathology.

Research methods

We performed diethylnitrosamine gavage to induce primary HCCs and simultaneous intrahepatic implantation of R1 to create secondary liver tumor in the same rats. Tumor growth was monitored by T2-/T1-weighted images on a 3.0T MRI scanner. Rats were then intravenously treated with CA4P. Vascular response and tumoral necrosis before and after treatment were compared by dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE-) and CE-MRI. Tumor blood supply was further calculated by a semiquantitative DCE parameter of area under the time signal intensity curve (AUC30). Eventually, in vivo MRI findings were validated by postmortem techniques.

Research results

In total, 19 primary HCCs and 7 hepatic R1 allografts were successfully established in the 7 rats of the CA4P group, while 17 primary HCCs and 7 R1-tumors were generated in the 7 rats of the sham group. Uniform and variable vascularity were identified, respectively, in hepatic R1 allografts and primary HCCs. As documented by in vivo MRI and postmortem histopathology, vascular shutdown generally occurred at 1 h after CA4P treatment; at 12 h after treatment, tumoricidal effects were observed in secondary R1 tumors, while heterogeneous responses were seen in the primary HCCs. Quantitatively, tumor blood supply reflected by AUC30 showed vascular closure (66%) in R1-tumors at 1 h (P < 0.05), followed by further perfusion decrease at 12 h (P < 0.01); less significant vascular clogging occurred in HCCs. Histomorphologically, CA4P induced more extensive necrosis in R1-tumors (92.6%) than in HCCs (50.2%) (P < 0.01); tumor vascularity heterogeneously scored +~+++ in HCCs but homogeneously scored ++ in R1-tumors.

Research conclusions

To verify our original hypothesis that primary and secondary liver cancers may respond differently to VDA therapy due to the dissimilar tumor vascularity, a complex rat tumor model combining carcinogen-induced primary HCCs and a surgically implanted R1-tumor in the same cirrhotic rats has thus been established to compare CA4P therapeutic responses intra-individually under the same microenvironment. Indeed, our hypothesis was verified by the superior performance of CA4P in metastatic over primary liver cancers. This could help to design future clinical trials and guide applications of VDAs.

Research perspectives

The merit of this study is that the present synchronous multiple liver cancer model in rodents could be a stepping-stone to help predict the diverse responses that may occur in patients, and to further address more complicated clinically relevant questions. The lesson that could be learnt from this study lies in the fact that although HCCs are generally hypervascularized, we should not take it for granted that the rich abnormal blood vessels naturally serve as plentiful drug targets for the VDA to inevitably induce massive tumor necrosis. This preclinical study’s findings help in preparing a novel dual targeting pan-anticancer theragnostic strategy OncoCiDia in human liver cancers where CA4P could be applied as the first step.