Objective: Spinal metastatic disease remains a major problem of oncological diseases. Patients affectedmay suffer pain, spinal instability, and severe neurological deficits. Today, palliative surgery and radiotherapy are the mainstays of therapy. In contrast, preventive treatment strategies or treatment concepts for an early stage are lacking. Here, we have used a syngeneic, experimental spine metastases model in the mouse to test the efficacy of mTOR inhibition and anti-angiogenesis on the formation and progression of spinal melanoma metastases.
Methods: We used our previously established syngeneic spinal metastases mouse model by injecting luciferin-transfected B16 melanoma cells into the common carotid artery. Following injection, mice were treated with everolimus, an inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex, axitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, that blocks vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR) 1-3, as well as placebo. Animals were followed-up daily by neurological assessment and by repeat in vivo bioluminescence imaging. With occurrence of neurological deficits, a spinal MRI was performed, and mice were sacrificed. The whole spine was dissected free and analyzed by immunohistochemical techniques.
Results: Overall survival was 23 days in the control group, significantly prolonged to 30 days (p = 0.04) in the everolimus group, and to 28 days (p = 0.04) in the axitinib group. While 78% of mice in the placebo group developed symptomatic metastatic epidural spinal cord compression, only 50% did so in the treatment groups. The mean time to manifestation of paralysis was 22 days in the control group, 26 days (p = 0.10) in the everolimus group, and 27 days (p = 0.06) in the axitinib group. Screening for spinal metastases by bioluminescence imaging on two different time points showed a decrease in metastatic tumor formation in the treatment groups compared to the controls. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the bioactivity of the two compounds: The Ki67 proliferation labeling index was reduced in the everolimus group and numbers of CD31 positive endothelial cells were reduced in the axitinib group.
Conclusion: Both, the mTOR inhibitor everolimus as well as antiangiogenetic effects by the VEGFR inhibitor axitinib showed potential to prevent and retard formation of symptomatic spinal metastases. However, the therapeutic efficacy was only mild in this experimental model.