Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A novel rodent model of spinal metastasis and spinal cord compression

Zion Zibly12*, Cody D Schlaff1, Ira Gordon1, Jeeva Munasinghe3 and Kevin A Camphausen1

Author Affiliations

1 Radiation Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

2 Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

3 Cell and Cancer Biology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2012, 13:137  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-13-137

Published: 1 November 2012



Spinal cord metastatic lesions affect a high number of cancer patients usually resulting in spinal cord compression syndrome. A major obstacle in the research of spinal metastatic disease is the lack of a simple reproducible animal model that mimics the natural course of the disease. In this study, we present a highly reproducible rodent model that can be used for different types of cancers while mimicking the natural course of human metastatic spinal cord compression syndrome.


All sixteen Fisher 344 rats survived the dorsal approach intraosseous implantation of CRL-1666 adenocarcinoma cells and both rats survived the sham control surgery. By Day 13 functional analysis via the modified Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale showed significant decrease in motor function; median functional score was 3 for the tumor group (p = 0.0011). Median time to paresis was 8.7 days post-operatively. MR imaging illustrated repeated and consistent tumor formation, furthermore, onset of neurological sequale was the result of tumor formation and cord compression as confirmed by histological examination.


Analysis of these findings demonstrates a repeatable and consistent tumor growth model for cancer spinal metastases in rats. This novel rat model requires a less intricate surgical procedure, and as a result minimizes procedure time while subsequently increasing consistency. Therefore, this model allows for the preclinical evaluation of therapeutics for spinal metastases that more closely replicates physiological findings.

Spinal metastasis; Spinal cord compression; Animal model; Rat