Hundreds of compounds are currently undergoing clinical trials for evaluating their effectiveness in fighting cancer, and thousands more are being developed and investigated during the preclinical drug development stages. Anti-cancer compounds span from cytotoxic compounds, immunotherapies, hormonal agents to molecular targeted therapies, and can take in the form of small molecule compounds, antibodies, cell therapies or vaccines.
Preceding clinical studies that need to demonstrate the clinical benefits of the drug in the target population are preclinical studies. Preclinical evaluation of novel cancer therapies starts from fundamental research, involving target identification and validation to early preclinical research to demonstrate the compounds’ overall safety and toxicity profile. Efficacy and safety are typically evaluated in an exploratory manner, depending on the drug’s mechanism of action.
In vivo research normally starts with the most suitable selection of an oncology model, in line with the objectives and goals of the study (i.e., the use of more complex orthotopic models that recapitulate tumoral microenvironment, to simpler xenograft studies). The tumoral response to a novel compound can be determined by assessing the implanted tumor volume using in vivo imaging techniques such as ultrasound, bioluminescent and fluorescent imaging. In order to provide deeper insights into the tumor’s microenvironment, flow cytometry proves to be a powerful technique. However, as flow cytometry is traditionally considered to be a bulk method, histopathology emerges as a more suitable method to provide deeper insights into the tumor’s microenvironment, offering the advantage of a preserved tissue morphology.
The histopathological assessment of tumor tissue samples represents one of key endpoints of many studies conducted during the preclinical stage. Deeper insights into the spatial tumor microenvironment, proliferation, histologic malignancy grades, angiogenesis, inflammation, fibrosis, intra-tumoral drug levels, target engagement and efficacy can be evaluated using various histopathology techniques.
Most people associate histopathology with classical gold-standard readouts such as H&E and IHC. However, the field of histopathology is also keeping up with the newest research trends to provide advanced high-throughput multiplexing techniques similar to -omics techniques such as RNA sequencing. Therefore, it may be tempting to include the most novel state-of-the-art readouts such as multiplex IF offering users benefits such as large-scale cell phenotyping. However, not every project will benefit from this technique. On the contrary, many projects, are sufficient with H&E or single IHC stainings to determine characteristics such as:
- Proliferation index
- Characterization of tumor morphology related to malignancy (pleomorphism, chromatic appearance, nucleus-to-cytoplasm ratio, etc.,)
- Tumor invasion, metastasis
- Immune cell infiltration
- Determining general compound toxicology characteristics
How to select the most suitable technique
To help you select the most suitable and cost-effective technique applicable for your research, we have compiled the most commonly used techniques and their most common applications in oncology research (non-exhaustive) in the table below.
Table summarising of main histopathology techniques and their applicability in research.
|Why should you use this technique?
|Multiplex IHC and IF
Working with Connected-Pathology
Rigorous histopathology analysis during the preclinical stage is critical in confirming not only the efficacy of the novel anti-cancer compound, but also to demonstrate the overall safety and toxicity profile. However, without the necessary pathology expertise and experience, proper histopathology analyses take significant time and resources. In the field of oncology, preclinical researchers need to ensure target specificity, selection of correct preclinical in vitro and in vivo models to answer their research questions and unbiased approach to testing their novel compound. All of this takes a significant amount of time, leaving little time and expertise to focus on analyses that are routine for expert histopathologists.
Connected-Pathology proves to be a reliable outsourcing histopathology partner, allowing you to benefit from:
- Whole-slide scanning provides competitive leading times as our veterinary pathologists to view images in high-quality.
- Our in-house designed viewer, I-Connect, gives you not only access to the full image directory but also the ability to directly communicate with our veterinary pathologists.
- Expert in assay development solutions, Connected-Pathology works with you to validate novel biomarkers.
- Our automated devices enable us to perform large-scale studies from H&E to IHC/IF and more complex methods.
- Our expert veterinary and clinical pathologists assist you with interpreting study findings and taking the next step.
Histopathology readouts are applicable and can be tailored to all preclinical oncology models:
- Cell-line (CDX) and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tumor models
- Syngeneic tumor models
- Orthotopic tumor models
- Metastatic tumor models
- Humanized models
- Cancer cell lines
- Patient-derived 3D models