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Mini-Tumors for Testing Treatments

By growing cells taken from patients' tumors and growing them in the lab into miniature versions of that tumor, doctors can use them to test which chemotherapy drug might be best for that patient, New Scientist reports.

Researchers led by the Institute of Cancer Research's Nicola Valeri created organoids using cells from 110 tumor biopsies obtained from 71 patients enrolled in four prospective phase 1/2 clinical trials. As the researchers report in Science this week, the phenotypic and genotypic profiles of those mini-tumors were highly similar to the original tumors.

The ICR team then tested how well patient-derived organoids responded to 55 chemotherapy treatments and tied that back to how the patients fared on the drugs. They report that how the organoids could predict how the patients did on the treatments about 88 percent of the time. "Our data suggest that [patient-derived organoids] can be exploited for functional genomics to simulate cancer behavior ex vivo and integrate molecular pathology into the decision-making process of early-phase clinical trials," they wrote in their paper.

Valeri tells New Scientist that she and her team are pursuing a clinical trial in which organoid testing is used to determine the treatment pursued.