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Researchers use lung cancer organoid to select best drug for patients
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2019.10.10 16:00
  • Updated 2019.10.10 16:00
  • comments 0

An Asan Medical Center research team has developed an organoid culture technology, which cultures patients' lung cancer cells and reproduces individual characteristics, and proved its usefulness in validating drug efficacy in preclinical trials.

Professors Jang Se-jin (left) and Kim Min-seo

Professors Jang Se-jin and Kim Min-seo at the hospital led the team that developed the organoid culture technology.

The team became the world's first to develop an organoid culture technology, which suppresses healthy cells and selectively grows lung cancer cells to form a cancer tissue structure.

The researchers expect that by using this technology, patients can find customized anticancer drugs while pharmaceutical companies can use the technology to develop new lung cancer drugs.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, requiring the development of innovative drugs and treatments. However, lung cancer shows substantial genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity across individuals, driving a need for personalized medicine.

Such needs have called for an alternative platform, such as cancer organoids, as the development of a new anticancer drug required a lot of laboratory animals, such as rats and rabbits, for clinical trials.

Cancer organoids are cancer models that reproduce tissue characteristics of patients in vitro. It is an analog of cancer tissue obtained by taking a small amount of cancer tissue from a patient and culturing it in three dimensions in a structure similar to an in vivo substrate.

Unlike culturing cancer cells in two dimensions at the bottom of the petri dish, the three-dimension culture method can help evaluate the function and structure of the cancer tissue.

By combining various growth factors necessary for the survival of lung cancer cells, the team has made an optimized culture solution to suppress healthy cells and grow cancer cells to achieve a structure similar to that of living organisms.

AMC researchers confirmed that the patient-derived lung cancer organoids matched the type of lung cancer tissue in each parental patient, and reproduced the same genome mutations.

"The lung cancer tissues of cultured patients can also be kept alive for a long time, which, in turn, allows hospitals to select an optimal anticancer drug after testing various anticancer drugs on the organoid," the hospital said in a press release. "The team also expects that the technology can replace animal experiments, reducing the sacrifice of experimental animals and the cost and time required for research and development of new drugs."

In addition to developing the organoid technology, Professor Jang, along with Professor Jung Ki-seok, developed a microfluidic chip, which can rapidly cultivate and utilize cancer organoids for research.

The team developed the system after acknowledging the need for standardized cancer organoid on a biochip that can immediately evaluate the drug and analyze its response if they wanted to apply the organoids in actual clinical practices.

"By securing our cancer organoid culture technology, we will lead the Korean precision medicine model based on AMC's clinical data and genome analysis technology," Jang said. "Besides, from completing the lung cancer organoid biobank, the team is also working on establishing an organoid biobank for patients with colorectal, gastric, and liver cancer."

The team will do its best so that more patients can receive the optimal anticancer treatment that best suits them, Jang added.

The research was published in Nature Communications and was selected as an "Editors' Highlights" in October.


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