Quantitation of drug sensitivity by human metastatic melanoma colony-forming units.
We measured the effect of 6 standard (Adriamycin, BCNU, DTIC, melphalan, vinblastine, actinomycin D) and 3 Phase II agents (cis-platinum, vindesine, AMSA) on melanoma colony-forming units (CFU) in soft agar from biopsies of 50 patients with metastatic melanoma. Melanoma CFU demonstrated marked heterogeneity in chemosensitivity to these 9 drugs. Reduction in survival of CFU below 38% at one-tenth the pharmacologically achievable 1h concentration (our operational definition of chemosensitivity) was obtained in only 19% of 200 in vitro trials, and was usually the same whether or not patients had been exposed to prior chemotherapy, suggesting that melanoma CFU are inherently resistant to presently available chemotherapeutic drugs. The soft-agar assay was 86% accurate (25/29 cases) in identifying drugs to which the tumour was resistant in vivo, and 63% accurate (12/19 trials) in identifying drugs to which the tumour was clinically sensitive, counting mixed responses as responses. In contrast, if mixed responses were classified as progressive disease, the accuracy of identification of sensitivity fell to 42% (8/19 trials). These investigations furnish a quantitative description of the chemosensitivity of human metastatic melanoma CFU. Additionally, these studies serve as a useful step towards the development of an in vitro chemosensitivity test for human melanoma, and provide an operational quantitative basis for further exploration of in vitro-directed therapy in metastatic neoplasms.