Tiny Tumors May Facilitate Individualized Treatments for Rare Cancers

UCLA Scientists Develop Rapid Screening Method for Hundreds of Drugs

Collecting a patient’s own cells and creating miniature tumor organoids could help scientists understand how the tumor would respond to a particular drug or drug combination. It could also help prove helpful for people with rare and hard-to-treat cancers.

A paper detailing the new technique was recently published in Communications Biology. By creating organoids with the new screening method, researchers can use them to study diseases and potential treatments.

After obtaining cancer cells directly from surgery, researchers seed them the same day to generate tumor organoids. Scientists at the University of California-Los Angeles created a miniaturized system allowing the setup of hundreds of wells for testing with minimal manipulation. Approximately three to five days later, the lab screens drugs to find out which ones are effective. By using robots, hundreds of different treatments can be screened simultaneously, enabling the entire process––from surgery to final results––to be completed within one to two weeks.

The researchers took cells from three patients with ovarian cancer and one with peritoneal cancer and grew tumor organoids. The test enabled them to find which drugs were effective for each patient’s organoids.

The cells from one study participant, who had a very rare type of ovarian cancer, responded to cyclin-kinase inhibitors, which can target cancer by preventing its growth. Without the test, it would have been impossible to know that these drugs would work on this specific type of cancer.

There are many rare forms of cancer for which scientists know little about drug susceptibilities. But by creating models of rare tumors in the lab, they can identify patients who could benefit the most from a specific treatment. Also, the technique could help scientists select patients for clinical trials for potential new cancer therapies.

Source: MedicalXpress, January 25, 2019