The aim of this study was to analyze the homing and progression patterns of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALL) in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Upon intraperitoneal (IP) transfer, cells from relapse samples of three children with T-lineage ALL spread hematogenously and infiltrated the non-lymphoid and/or lymphoid organs with a pattern reminiscent of the human clinical disease. These mice either died or were killed in extremis at a mean of 9 weeks. Moreover, cell lines established in vitro from two of these samples manifested identical homing and progression in the SCID mouse as compared with the original patients' cells. Thus, long-term culture of the primary leukemic T cells did not alter their invasive potential and migration pattern. When engrafted IP, three cell lines established from pre-B-ALL cases displayed primarily a lymphatic spread with induction of local tumor masses and kidney/liver nodules. Mice were killed at 11 to 13 weeks, but had not developed imminently fatal leukemia. However, when transferred intravenously, one pre-B ALL cell line was able to spread hematogenously and to infiltrate both lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues. Overall, these data demonstrate that the SCID mouse provides an efficient and reproducible model to study the pathogenesis of childhood ALL, and may be a suitable system for evaluating therapy.

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