If a person has recurrent metastatic cancer – meaning their tumours return even after standard chemotherapy – the prognosis is bleak. Such patients are great candidates for experimental treatments, but with so few months to live and so many drugs to choose from, picking one that gives the best chance of extending life is largely a matter of luck. Now, however, there may be a way to test multiple experimental drugs in parallel, saving valuable time and possibly lives. Biopsies taken from the tumours of patients with certain cancers, such as gastro-oesophageal and colorectal cancer, can be used to create miniature lab-grown tumour organoids (pictured). At the cell and molecular level, these organoids are excellent matches to patients' tumours. So much so in fact that their response to drugs in culture can predict the patient’s response to drugs in the clinic, providing a speedy way to find one that works.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.