Tumour cell clusters called organoids used to test the patient's response to anti-cancer drugs
Cancer treatment centres around chemotherapy – using medication to kill cancer cells as they multiply – but these aggressive techniques cause many side effects, and not all cancers respond well to treatment. Predicting which patients would benefit from chemotherapy is challenging, but researchers are currently developing new methods, based on patient-derived organoids (PDOs, pictured), clusters of cells cultured from the patients’ own tumours. In a recent study, researchers tested the response of PDOs from patients with colorectal cancer to various drugs, then compared it to the patients’ improvement after courses of chemotherapy. Encouragingly, for treatments using the drug irinotecan, tests on PDOs predicted how well patients’ tumours responded to chemotherapy in 80% of cases. Limitations still need to be overcome, as culturing the PDOs themselves can be difficult, and they do not predict responsiveness to all drugs tested, yet these personalised assays could represent a significant step towards better cancer care.
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