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Cancer Research

Development and Angiographic Use of the Rabbit VX2 Model for Liver Cancer

Published: January 7th, 2019



1Department of Radiology, University of Illinois, 2College of Medicine, University of Illinois, 3Department of Biological Resources Laboratory, University of Illinois

The goal of this article is to provide a primer for the development and use of the VX2 carcinoma rabbit model for liver cancer.

The rabbit VX2 tumor is an animal model commonly utilized for translational research regarding hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in the field of Interventional Radiology. This model employs an anaplastic squamous cell carcinoma that is easily and reliably propagated in the skeletal muscle of donor rabbits for eventual harvest and allograft implantation into the liver of naïve recipients. This tumor graft rapidly grows within the liver of recipient rabbits into an angiographically identifiable tumor characterized by a necrotic core surrounded by a viable hypervascular capsule. The physical size of the rabbit anatomy is sufficient to facilitate vascular instrumentation allowing for the application and testing of various interventional techniques. Despite these benefits, there exists a paucity of technical resources to act as a concrete reference for researchers working with the model. Herein, we present a comprehensive visual outline for the technical aspects of development, growth, propagation, and angiographic utilization of the rabbit VX2 tumor model for use by novice and experienced researchers alike.

The rabbit VX2 tumor model has played a role in experimental oncology since its development in 19351,2. This tumor is a virus-induced anaplastic squamous cell carcinoma characterized by hypervascularity, rapid growth, and easy propagation in skeletal muscle3,4. While the rabbit VX2 tumor model has been used to investigate a multitude of cancers5,6,7,8; the focus of this paper is liver cancer9.

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The following protocol follows all requirements and guidelines mandated by the University of Illinois - Chicago. It was reviewed and approved by the local Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee prior to execution.

1. VX2 Hind Limb Tumor Development

  1. Procure the VX2 tumor cell line from the National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Treatment Diagnosis and Treatment Tumor/Cell Line Repository.
    Note: At this time, the order catalog can be found at the following link: htt.......

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When looking at Figure 1, it is clear that the quadricep of the rabbit is enlarged. Additionally, multiple small discrete nodules, typically correlating with tumor growth through the fascia, are visible. Upon palpation, the injected limb should appear than the non-injected limb. If a researcher requires more definitive assurance of tumor presence, ultrasound imaging can be used to identify the tumor embedded in the muscle. If a tumor is not detected, the hind.......

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The first critical step in the VX2 tumor methodology is successful propagation of a tumor in the hind limb of a donor rabbit. Refer to the first paragraph in the "Representative Results" section for more information regarding this step.

The next critical step is ensuring that the viable tumor capsule is properly identified. Not only will this be necessary for tumor suspension preparation, but it is also important for selecting and generating tumor pieces for hepatic implantation. The d.......

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We would like to acknowledge the veterinary staff at the University of Illinois - Chicago's Biological Resources Laboratory.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
MethoCult (Methycellulose) Stemcell Technologies M3134
VX2 Cell Line NCI VX-2
5 mL Syringe BD 309646
16-Gauge Needle BD 305197
22-Gauge Needle BD 305155
Hair Clippers Wahl 41870-0438
Foam Insulated Box Mr. Box Online 10 x 10 x 4
Acepromazine Henry Schein 003845
Buprenorphine Par 42023-179-05
Meloxicam Henry Schein 049755
Alcohol Pads Covidien 5033
Ketamine Henry Schein 056344
Xylazine Akorn 59399-110-20
Pentobarbital (Fatal-Plus) Vortech 9373
Sterile Petri Dish Thermo Fisher 172931
DMEM Gibco 11965092
Saline Baxter 2F7124
15-Blade Steris 02-050-015
Scalpel Handle x 2 Steris 22-2381
Curved Hemostat WPI 501288
Atraumatic Forceps Sklar 52-5077
Gauze Medline NON21430LF
11-Blade Steris 02-050-011
Surgicel Ethicon 1951
3-0 PDS / Taper Ethicon Z305H
4 - 0 Vicryl / Cutting Ethicon J392H
40 micron strainer BD 352340
50 mL conical tube Thermo Fisher 339652
plastic pipette Thomas Scientific HS206371B
Centrifuge Sorvall 75004240
1.40mL Tubes (Internal Thread) Micronic MP32131-Z20
3-F VSI Micro-HV Introducer Kit Vascular Solutions Custom Order (P15180391)
.018 45-degree angle glidewire Terumo RG*GA1818SA
Direxion bern-shape microcatheter Boston Scientific M001195230
Omnipaque GE Y510

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  2. Kidd, J. G., Rous, P. A transplantable rabbit carcinoma originating in a virus-induced papilloma and containing the virus in masked or altered form. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 71 (6), 813-838 (1940).
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