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Giovanni Vitale, Germano Gaudenzi, Alessandra Dicitore, Franco Cotelli, Diego Ferone and Luca Persani

Tumor models have a relevant role in furthering our understanding of the biology of malignant disease and in preclinical cancer research. Only few models are available for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), probably due to the rarity and heterogeneity of this group of neoplasms. This review provides insights into the current state-of-the-art of zebrafish as a model in cancer research, focusing on potential applications in NETs. Zebrafish has a complex circulatory system similar to that of mammals. A novel angiogenesis assay based on the injection of human NET cell lines (TT and DMS79 cells) into the subperidermal space of the zebrafish embryos has been developed. Proangiogenic factors locally released by the tumor graft affect the normal developmental pattern of the subintestinal vessels by stimulating the migration and growth of sprouting vessels toward the implant. In addition, a description of the striking homology between zebrafish and humans of molecular targets involved in tumor angiogenesis (somatostatin receptors, dopamine receptors, mammalian target of rapamycin), and currently used as targeted therapy of NETs, is reported.

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Giovanni Vitale, Germano Gaudenzi, Luisa Circelli, Marco F Manzoni, Andrea Bassi, Niccolò Fioritti, Antongiulio Faggiano, Annamaria Colao and on behalf of NIKE Group

Medullary thyroid carcinoma is a neuroendocrine tumour originating from parafollicular C cells accounting for 5–10% of thyroid cancers. Increased understanding of disease-specific molecular targets of therapy has led to the regulatory approval of two drugs (vandetanib and cabozantinib) for the treatment of medullary thyroid carcinoma. These drugs increase progression-free survival; however, they are often poorly tolerated and most treatment responses are transient. Animal models are indispensable tools for investigating the pathogenesis, mechanisms for tumour invasion and metastasis and new therapeutic approaches for cancer. Unfortunately, only few models are available for medullary thyroid carcinoma. This review provides an overview of the state of the art of animal models in medullary thyroid carcinoma and highlights future developments in this field, with the aim of addressing salient features and clinical relevance.

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Germano Gaudenzi, Silvia Carra, Alessandra Dicitore, Maria Celeste Cantone, Luca Persani and Giovanni Vitale

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are a class of rare and heterogeneous neoplasms that originate from the neuroendocrine system. In several cases, these neoplasms can release bioactive hormones leading to characteristic clinical syndromes and hormonal dysregulations with detrimental impact on the quality of life and survival of these patients. Only few animal models are currently available to investigate pathogenesis, progression and functional syndromes in NETs and to identify new therapeutic strategies. The tropical teleost zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a popular vertebrate model system that offers unique advantages for the study of several biological processes, ranging from embryonic development to human diseases such as cancer. In this review, we summarize recent advances on zebrafish models for NET preclinical research that take advantage of modern genetic and transplantable technologies. In the future, these tools may have a role in the treatment decision-making and tertiary prevention of NETs.