According to a recent report from The Guardian, science is getting closer to new cancer treatments, thanks to the world’s first “living biobank.” By keeping tumorous cells alive, scientists can study the mutations as they occur — and they can also test the effects of over 80 anti-cancer drug treatments. With an expected 1,658,370 new cancer diagnoses in 2015, and 47% of cancer researchers reporting difficulty finding quality biobank samples, that could make this biobank a gold mine.
“The beautiful thing here is that we’ve shown we can grow these organoids in the lab and they look a lot like the tissue from which they were taken, so they should be much better models for studying cancer,” said Mathew Garnett, a researcher at the Sanger Institute.
So what does this mean for cancer treatments? Garnett says that “This opens up amazing opportunities to ask questions about the biology of the patients’ tumours, the genetics of their tumours, and to see how that patient might respond to different cancer drugs.”
But everyone’s bio-makeup is different, which can lead to some variable results. Garnett continued, “Cancer is a very diverse disease and we often find that some patients respond to a drug while others don’t. The reasons are often poorly understood, but we can use the organoids to try and understand that better.”
This special targeted individual sample management could unlock new doors for personalized medical treatment, especially cancer. On this, Garnett concluded:
“An aspiration that is three to five years away is to take someone’s tumour, grow it in the lab, test what drugs it responds to, and then use that information to decide the patient’s treatment. There are still some technical hurdles, but we are not miles away from that.”