The folate receptor (FR) is expressed in a variety of gynecological cancer types. It has been widely used for tumor targeting with folic acid conjugates of diagnostic and therapeutic probes. The cervical KB tumor cells have evolved as the standard model for preclinical investigations of folate-based (radio) conjugates. In this study, a panel of FR-expressing human cancer cell lines—including cervical (HeLa, KB, KB-V1), ovarian (IGROV-1, SKOV-3, SKOV-3.ip), choriocarcinoma (JAR, BeWo) and endometrial (EFE-184) tumor cells—was investigated in vitro and for their ability to grow as xenografts in mice. FR-expression levels were compared in vitro and in vivo and the cell lines were characterized by determination of the sensitivity towards commonly-used chemotherapeutics and the expression of two additional, relevant tumor markers, HER2 and L1-CAM. It was found that, besides KB cells, its multiresistant KB-V1 subclone as well as the ovarian cancer cell lines, IGROV-1 and SKOV-3.ip, could be used as potentially more relevant preclinical models. They would allow addressing specific questions such as the therapeutic efficacy of FR-targeting agents in tumor (mouse) models of multi-resistance and in mouse models of metastases formation.
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