Updated: Mar 10
Personalized medicine is a medical approach that aims to tailor medical treatments to individual patients based on their unique genetic profile and characteristics. In the field of oncology, precision medicine has revolutionized the way cancer is diagnosed, treated and managed. By leveraging advances in molecular biology and genomics, precision oncology has enabled the development of targeted therapies that can provide patients with more effective, personalized and less toxic treatments.
One of the key components of precision medicine in oncology is genomic analysis. By analyzing the genomes of cancer patients, researchers can identify specific genetic mutations and alterations that drive the growth of tumors and cause resistance to traditional chemotherapy. This information can then be used to develop personalized treatments that target the specific mutations and genetic drivers of each patient's cancer. The impact of genomic analysis on the diagnosis and identification of new therapies has been significant and has been increasing over time. This approach mainly benefits patients with metastasis and advanced cancers. In 2006, it was estimated that 5% of patients with metastatic cancer were eligible for genome-targeted therapy and this number had increased to 8% in twelve years (link). The percentage of patients benefiting from these treatments remains relatively low and more research is needed to advance precision oncology.
The use of ex vivo patient-derived tumor-stroma models in precision oncology
In addition to genetic analysis, functional precision medicine is a growing area of research that involves pharmacological testing on patient-derived cells. This approach allows researchers to understand how a patient's cancer cells will respond to different drugs and treatments, enabling the development of more targeted and personalized treatment plans. Three-dimensional (3D) patient-derived tumor models (sometimes referred to as patient tumor avatars or organoids), are created by culturing patient-derived cancer cells ex vivo in hydrogel-based matrices. Researchers then observe how the cancer cells grow and interact with their surrounding microenvironment upon different pharmacological treatments. The use of 3D patient-derived tumor models has the potential to improve drug discovery and diagnosis, as well as better predict patient response to treatment.
Our contribution to advance personalized medicine for paediatric blood cancer
Ectica is a leading provider of synthetic human stromal models designed to support the growth of patient-derived cancer cells ex vivo and enable pharmacological testing in a high-content screening setting. An example of the use of Ectica’s technology for the development of oncology precision medicine applications is the collaboration with the researchers at the Children's Hospital in Zurich specifically focusing on paediatric leukaemia. Leukaemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow and is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal white blood cells. A key aspect of leukaemia research is understanding the interactions between cancer cells and the surrounding stroma, as these interactions play a critical role in the initiation, maintenance, and chemosensitivity of leukaemia.
In this project, leukaemia cells deriving from paediatric patients are cultured in a stromal model of the bone marrow vascular niche composed of mesenchymal cells and endothelial cells. These advanced tumor models are growing in imaging plates for high content screening for drug response profiling. In particular, we study the invasiveness of different leukaemia subtypes in the stromal microenvironment and their proximity to the endothelial and stromal cells. Our preliminary data show that the ex vivo proliferation of leukaemia cells is enhanced in the presence of the stromal compartment as well as their motility.
For more information please request the poster by Kanari et al. entitled “A three-dimensional (3-D) ex vivo model for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia” presented at the 4th Scientific ESH Workshop entitled: The Haematological Tumour Microenvironment and its Therapeutic Targeting.
About the 3DProSeed StromaLine
Ectica Technologies has developed a collection of high-content screening (HCS) compatible primary human stromal models. These stromal cells are cultured in 3D synthetic, animal-free pre-cast hydrogels in 96-well imaging plates (3DProSeed StromaLine collection). As a result, the models are guaranteed to develop according to specifications using the supplied materials and recommended methods. Stromal cells currently available include primary human CAFs – standard or expanded – from melanoma, the lungs, pancreas and colon. Basic patient annotations are pre-tested to form αSMA-positive fibroblastic networks in this innovative 3D hydrogel system. Importantly, rigidity levels are fine-tuned and optimal for stromal cell growth.