Surgery is often the first treatment for many solid tumors. However, local relapses frequently occur following primary tumor resection, despite adjuvant or neo-adjuvant therapies. This occurs when surgical margins are insufficiently tumor-free, resulting in residual cancer cells. From a biological and immunological perspective, surgery is not a null event; the wound healing environment is known to induce both pro- and anti-tumorigenic pathways. As a consequence, preclinical models for drug development aimed at preventing local relapse should incorporate surgical resection when testing new (neo)adjuvant therapies, to model the clinical settings in patients treated with surgery.
Here, we describe a mouse model of incomplete surgical resection of WEHI 164 soft tissue sarcoma that allows testing of (neo)adjuvant therapies in the setting of a wound healing response. In this model, 50% or 75% of the tumor is removed, leaving behind some cancer tissue in situ to model gross residual disease after surgery in the clinical setting. This model allows testing therapies in the context of surgery while also considering the wound healing response, which may affect the efficacy of (neo)adjuvant treatments. The incomplete surgical resection results in reproducible regrowth of the tumor in all mice in the absence of adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant treatment with checkpoint blockade results in reduced tumor regrowth. This model is thus appropriate for testing therapies in the context of debulking surgery and its associated wound healing response and can be extended to other types of solid cancer.