Rapid and cost-effective xenograft hepatocellular carcinoma model in Zebrafish for drug testing

Federica Tonon, Cristina Zennaro, Barbara Dapas, Michele Carraro, Massimo Mariotti, Gabriele Grassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We developed a novel, rapid and cost-effective Zebrafish xenograft model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) for drug screening in the disease. Following injection into the yolk sack of Zebrafish larvae of the human HCC cell line JHH6 stained by a vital dye, tumor mass growth was followed by fluorescence microscopy and by human Ki67 quantification. Tumor induced neo-angiogenesis was evaluated by alkaline phosphatase staining of the vessels, by using the Tg(fli1:EGFP)y1 strain of Zebrafish and by the quantification of the zebrafish vascular endothelial growth factor and of its receptor. We show that it is feasible to micro-inject JHH6 in Zebrafish larvae, that injected cells can grow for different days and that this induces a marked neo-angiogenesis. Finally, we show that our model allows testing the effects of anti-HCC drugs such as Bortezomib. Compared to more complex HCC mouse models, our model is far less expensive, faster to set up and does not need immunosuppressant treatment. Finally, the model makes use of JHH6, an aggressive form of HCC cell line never tested before in Zebrafish. In conclusion, the possibility to test anti HCC/neo-angiogenesis drugs makes our JHH6 model useful to select therapeutic molecules for a highly vascularized tumor such as HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-591
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 30 2016


  • Bortezomib
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • JHH6 cell line
  • Neo-angiogenesis
  • Zebrafish larvae xenograft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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