Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Growing in 3D

Testing drugs on bowel cancer patient's tumour cells

15 June 2019

Growing in 3D

Survival from bowel cancer has doubled in the UK over the past 40 years, and more than half of all patients will be alive ten years after diagnosis. Some tumours are still hard to treat, particularly once they've spread around the body and evolved resistance to chemotherapy. One solution is to use combinations of multiple drugs, tested on pure populations of cancer cells grown in flat layers in the lab. But people are not Petri dishes, and the results in patients have been disappointing. Researchers are now growing three-dimensional ‘mini-guts’ (organoids) like this one, combining bowel cancer cells from patients with other types of cells that are normally found in tumours. Dead cells (stained red) can be seen amongst the survivors (green) after three days of treatment with a three drug combo – a technique that could be used for personalised testing to find the right combination for each patient.

Written by Kat Arney

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