Epithelial neoplasms of the appendix are difficult to study preclinically given their low incidence, frequent mucinous histology, and absence of a comparable organ in mice for disease modeling. Although surgery is an effective treatment for localized disease, metastatic disease has a poor prognosis as existing therapeutics borrowed from colorectal cancer have limited efficacy. Recent studies reveal that appendiceal cancer has a genomic landscape distinct from colorectal cancer and thus preclinical models to study this disease are a significant unmet need.
We adopted an ex vivo slice model that permits the study of cellular interactions within the tumor microenvironment. Mucinous carcinomatosis peritonei specimens obtained at surgical resection were cutoff using a vibratome to make 150-μm slices cultured in media.
Slice cultures were viable and maintained their cellular composition regarding the proportion of epithelial, immune cells, and fibroblasts over 7 days. Within donor specimens, we identified a prominent and diverse immune landscape and calcium imaging confirmed that immune cells were functional for 7 days. Given the diverse immune landscape, we treated slices with TAK981, an inhibitor of SUMOylation with known immunomodulatory functions, in early-phase clinical trials. In 5 of 6 donor samples, TAK981-treated slices cultures had reduced viability, and regulatory T cells (Treg). These data were consistent with TAK981 activity in purified Tregs using an in vitro murine model.
This study demonstrates an approach to study appendiceal cancer therapeutics and pathobiology in a preclinical setting. These methods may be broadly applicable to the study of other malignancies.