A novel orthotopic mouse model of head and neck cancer with molecular imaging§


  • Part of this study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Denver, Colorado on April 21, 2009.

  • The authors have no financial disclosures for this article.

  • §

    The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.



Our goal was to develop a noninvasive, dynamic imaging method that would further the understanding of head and neck cancer (HNC) tumor growth and local spreading. We developed a novel orthotopic mouse model of HNC with a stable cell line expressing a red fluorescent protein gene to compare a molecular imaging tumor quantification with traditional caliper measurement.


An HNC-tdT stable cell line expressing the tdTomato gene was established, which were injected into the floor of the mouth of nude mice. Tumor growth was constantly monitored using molecular imaging for up to 35 days. The tumors were further evaluated by histologic examination.


Established tumors consistently expressed fluorescent signals that were successfully imaged by molecular imaging during the study. Initial tumor development was detected earlier than caliper measurement would allow. The fluorescent signal quantities of tumors detected by the imaging correlated with the tumor sizes measured by calipers.


This novel animal model represents an orthotopic human HNC model. The tumor can be detected earlier with molecular imaging than by conventional external caliper measurement. Unlike surgical measurement, the tumor can be quantified without disturbing the tumor environment. This model has significant potential for HNC oncologic research.