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Cancer Organoids Offer Insights into Treatment Outcomes

Conn Hastings |

Researchers at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands have developed a biobank of cancer organoids using tissue samples obtained from head and neck cancer patients. So far, the team used the biobank to validate tumor biomarkers. Excitingly, they also correlated patient treatment responses with organoid treatment responses, suggesting that the organoids provide a good proxy for testing new treatments and for designing a personalized treatment plan for individual patients. The organoids also revealed that certain drugs work better or worse in combination with other techniques, such as radiotherapy, offering new insights into how best to treat these cancers.

Organoids are tiny 3D tissue constructs that have been created by researchers to mimic a specific tissue, or in this case, a type of cancer. The idea is that these constructs could provide a wealth of knowledge on various tissues and disease states, without the need to use experimental animals or simple cell culture models that do not accurately recapitulate complex tissue responses or entail ethical concerns.

However, while scientists have been keen on the idea, so far we have not seen much concrete clinical work that investigates whether patient-derived organoids can actually reflect the clinical reality for the patients the tissues were originally sourced from. If so, this would confirm the utility of organoids as a patient proxy for personalized medicine.

This latest study does just that for head and neck cancer patients, a cancer type with treatment difficulties. “These treatments cause serious side-effects and some patients are therefore unable to finish the treatment,” said Rosemary Millen, a researcher involved in the study. “And even after going through such a harsh treatment, 60 percent of patients relapse.”

So far, the Hubrecht researchers have collected tissue samples from head and neck cancer patients during surgery and then used these to create a biobank of tumor organoids. They began testing the effects of different therapies on the organoids, and observed that the treatment outcomes between the original patient and their derivative organoids were similar, suggesting that the organoids can closely model the clinical reality.

“The organoids therefore hold potential for predicting patient outcomes,” said Millen. “The correlation between organoid and patient response was there for patients receiving adjuvant radiotherapy, meaning that radiation is used in addition to surgical resection of the tumor.”

“Here we show that two specific chemotherapy drugs, cisplatin and carboplatin, have a radiosensitizing effect in the organoids,” added Else Driehuis, another researcher involved in the study. “This means that it makes the tumor cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. These results are consistent with what we see in the clinic and therefore underline again the predictive potential of organoids in this setting.”

Study in journal Med: Patient-derived head and neck cancer organoids allow patient treatment stratification and serve as a platform for biomarker validation and identification

Via: Hubrecht Institute

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