Thanks to a grant from Worldwide Cancer Research, as well as support from various other organizations, researchers at UCLA recently uncovered a new, faster, easier, and more personalized way to conduct cancer research.
The study which led to this discovery was headed by Alice Soragni. She and her team believe that their findings could ultimately help physicians prescribe more individualized cancer treatment plans. Additionally, it could improve the process of how we conduct enrollment for clinical trials.
These findings could particularly benefit the rare disease patient population, for whom research as a whole lacks.
Basically, researchers at UCLA discovered how to create organoids from patient cells which replicate their organ function. These are grown in a lab, essentially creating miniature versions of patient cancer tumors.
Patient cells are extracted during surgery. The same day as the surgery, they are sent to the lab to generate organoids. The process takes between 3 and 5 days. From then, the research can begin. The entire process is done electronically using robots. This means, with minimal manipulation, the scientists are able to simultaneously screen hundreds of potential treatments and treatment combinations.
The best part? The entire process, including the patient’s surgery, can be completed in a week.
UCLA tested the process in four patients. One of these had peritoneal cancer and three had ovarian cancer. One of the ovarian cancer patients had a very rare form of the disease. Her cells responded to a treatment called cyclin-kinase inhibitors. Considering the fact that there is yet to be a known biomarker which can predict the effect of this treatment, physicians would never have considered this therapy for this patient had she not undergone this test.
As much as we need to discover new therapies, we also need to develop a better system for examining which existing therapies (or combination of therapies) is best for each unique patient. This organoid system could be the answer.
Most importantly, it could provide answers for rare disease patients who truly have no other options.
You can read the full study, published in Communications Biology here.
You can also read a summary of the study here.