There are currently no animal models for metastatic ocular melanoma. The lack of metastatic disease models has greatly hampered the research and development of novel strategies for the treatment of metastatic ocular melanoma. In this protocol we delineate a quick and efficient way to generate embryonic zebrafish models for both the primary and disseminated stage of ocular melanoma, using retro-orbital orthotopic and intravascular ectopic cell engraftment, respectively. Combining these two different engraftment strategies we can recapitulate the etiology of cancer in its totality, progressing from primary, localized tumor growth under the eye to a peri-vascular metastasis formation in the tail. These models allow us to quickly and easily modify the cancer cells prior to implantation with specific labeling, genetic or chemical interference; and to treat the engrafted hosts with (small molecular) inhibitors to attenuate tumor development.
Here, we describe the generation and quantification of both orthotopic and ectopic engraftment of ocular melanomas (conjunctival and uveal melanoma) using fluorescently labelled stable cell lines. This protocol is also applicable for engraftment of primary cells derived from patient biopsy and patient/PDX derived material (manuscript in preparation). Within hours post engraftment cell migration and proliferation can be visualized and quantified. Both tumor foci are readily available for imaging with both epifluorescence microscopy and confocal microscopy. Using these models, we can confirm or refute the activity of either chemical or genetic inhibition strategies within as little as 8 days after the onset of the experiment, allowing not only highly efficient screening on stable cell lines, but also enables patient directed screening for precision medicine approaches.
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