Organotypic tumor slices represent a physiologically-relevant culture system for studying the tumor microenvironment. Systematic characterization of the tumor slice culture system will enable its effective application for translational research. Here, using flow cytometry-based immunophenotyping, we performed a comprehensive characterization of the immune cell composition in organotypic tumor slices prepared from four syngeneic mouse tumor models and a human liver tumor. We found that the immune cell compositions of organotypic tumor slices prepared on the same day as the tumor cores were harvested are similar. Differences were primarily observed in the lymphocyte population of a clinical hepatocellular carcinoma case. Viable populations of immune cells persisted in the tumor slices for 7 days. Despite some changes in the immune cell populations, we showed the utility of mouse tumor slices for assessing responses to immune-modulatory agents. Further, we demonstrated the ability to use patient-derived xenograft tumor slices for assessing responses to targeted and cytotoxic drugs. Overall, tumor slices provide a broadly useful platform for studying the tumor microenvironment and evaluating the preclinical efficacy of cancer therapeutics.
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