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Last Updated: 06/21/23

Research Paradigm (1976-1985)

I.V. drip

The tumor panel experiment examined the correlation between the activity of chemotherapeutic agents in animal models and humans. Courtesy of NCI. 1980.

Tumor panel experiment

Bruce Chabner, M.D.
Former Director, DCTD


The 1976 experiment indicated that activity against some tumors preclinically was an indication that the compound had a slightly better than random chance of being clinically active. Still, the lack of effective drugs to combat solid tumors led DTP to work on developing an assay that could better predict activity against solid tumors in humans.

In 1976, DTP launched the tumor panel experiment to examine the correlation between the activity of chemotherapeutic agents in animal tumors, animal models of human solid tumors, and the clinical experience.

By 1982, 2,164 compounds had been assigned to the tumor panel, of which 1,085 were tested against the complete panel. The six-year study showed the value of using the P388 murine model as a primary screen to select candidates for screening in the tumor panel. Inclusion of human tumor xenografts allowed for the identification of new active agents that would have been missed by mouse tumors alone. However, the researchers were unable to correlate compound activity against tumors in animal models to clinical activity based on tumor histology.

In June 1984, the concept of a disease-oriented in vitro primary screen composed of human tumor cell lines was first presented to the Board of Scientific Counselors. Later that year, NCI began the development of an in vitro cell-line-based screen representing the major classes of solid tumors that would permit the testing of compounds against a broad panel of human tumors.

DTP began developing the human tumor cell line screen in 1985. The original hypothesis was that this screen would be able to identify compounds with activity against cancers of a particular tissue and that human tumor cell lines would be better predictors than mouse tumors for compound activity against solid tumors in humans.