They might not look like people, but mouse avatars may help identify the treatment for cancer patients' disease, Technology Review reports.
These mice, which have patients' tumors grafted into them, can be treated with different drugs to determine which one or combination works the best.
"Generally, the drugs we give to patients are more likely to not work than to work," says Imperial College London's Justin Stebbing. Knowing how the mice fared "give[s] patients an additional layer of confidence."
Champions Oncology, a company Stebbings has worked with, is offering mouse avatars directly to patients for some $10,000 to $12,000, Tech review notes.
The company so far has grown tumors from 350 patients successfully, but notes that in about 30 percent of cases, the tumor cannot be grafted. However, Tech Review adds that the biggest drawback is that the tumors grow in mice at that same rate that they do in people, so findings may come too late for some.
Stebbing notes that for one recent, Champions created avatars for 22 patients with advanced sarcoma — but nine of them died before the study yielded any results.
"Within a couple of months after their surgery or biopsy, they get chemotherapy and they pass away," says Ronnie Morris, the president of Champions. "We build the avatar, but the patient can't use it."