Our Research

What Is the Oncopig?

The Oncopig Cancer Model is an inducible translational porcine model that develops clinically relevant tumors at defined locations and timepoints. The Oncopig Model provides an innovative translational tool for reliable and predictable testing of cancer-related diagnostics, devices and drugs, therefore bridging the gap from murine (mouse) to human testing.

Research to date shows that the Oncopig Model has many potential benefits.  Prominently, we have the ability to test and fine-tune treatment approaches in pigs before moving to clinical trials, allowing for reduction of costs associated with assessment of additional variables and accurate treatment assessment.  The Oncopig Model has the ability to mimic the human disease on a molecular basis which allow us to more accurately model the relevant clinical condition.  The ability to induce tumors and comorbidities will allows us to work precisely with defined tumors influenced by similar disease backgrounds as human diseases.  By precisely generating tumors and comorbidities in the Oncopig, which accurately mirror the human condition, our clients can evaluate their cancer diagnostics, drugs, devices, and other therapies in ways otherwise unavailable.  And because our research to date has shown the Oncopig Model can effectively predict results in humans, our clients can accelerate the most promising directions to human clinical qualification.

Our Technology

The Oncopig Cancer Model combined with our proprietary pig-based preclinical testing services provides the benefit of reducing false positives, modeling the interactions of multiple diseases, and accelerating progress towards human clinical trials. Our patent-pending technology allows us to induce tumors in specific sites in combination with clinically relevant comorbidities.  As a result, we can work with individualized models and tumors harboring custom designed genetic modifications.  Our technology has the ability to not only efficiently and effectively undergo preclinical trials, but allows us to eliminate logistical and accrual barriers associated with clinical trials, such as gender, pregnancy, age, and comorbidities. 


Current intra-arterial therapies for liver cancer or liver me- tastases—embolization, chemoembolization, and radio- embolization—have several limitations, including a high rate of recurrence, damage to normal liver, and inability to treat extrahepatic disease. A wide range of new therapies have been proposed to address these limitations.

The patient had four legs and a tail. But it wasn’t a rat. Surgeon Mark Carlson had some preclinical experience with rodent models, but he had never worked on the animal his colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) were proposing: pigs, part of a study about hemorrhage and hemostasis. “But you know, it’s surgery,” he recalls thinking. How difficult could it be?

The amount of time and money invested into cancer drug research, development, and clinical trials has continually increased over the past few decades. Despite record high cancer drug approval rates, cancer remains a leading cause of death. This suggests the need for more effective tools to help bring novel therapies to clinical practice in a timely manner.

The global incidence of cancer is rapidly rising, and despite an improved understanding of cancer molecular biology, immune landscapes, and advancements in cytotoxic, biologic, and immunologic anti-cancer therapeutics, cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide.

Cancer is a global epidemic causing more than 8 million annual deaths worldwide. The more than 13 million new cancer diagnoses made each year carry an economic burden of $290B. Cancer is expected to be the second leading cause of death in the United States in 2017. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates approximately 1,688,780 new cancer diagnoses will be made and 600,920 Americans will die from cancer. 

The screening of potential therapeutic compounds using phenotypic drug discovery (PDD) is being embraced once again by researchers and pharmaceutical companies as an approach to enhance the development of new effective therapeutics. Before the genomics and molecular biology era and the consecutive emergence of targeted-drug discovery approaches, PDD was the most common platform used for drug discovery. 

Cancer has recently surpassed cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide. The increasing cancer incidence combined with the emergence of improved therapeutic strategies has driven research into fields such as how the immune system influences cancer development and progression. The term immunosurveillance has traditionally been used to describe how the immune system can protect the host from tumor development.