COVID-19 didn’t make all other diseases disappear. Cancer is still killing people like before and scientists are still trying to find new ways to treat it. Now researchers from the University of Queensland found that fresh tumour biopsies respond differently to medicine than the  tissue cultures traditionally used. This could change the way doctors select a treatment for a particular cancer.

Carcinoma with lymphoid stroma. Fresh cells from biopsies react to treatment differently, allowing for more accurate testing of medicines. Image credit: 藤澤孝志 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Obviously, you cannot test all the possible medicine on patients. New treatments have to be studied in ex Vivo experiments. That is why those cancer tissues are cultured. The process is rather simple – a biopsy of tumour is taken and those cells are then grown in labs to usable sizes. Then various medicine are applied to them and researchers assess how they are working. Obviously, this approach has its limitations – tissues cultures respond differently to drugs than the actual body. This is just how the immune system works – it cannot do the same in the petri dish as it can in the body.

Scientists found that results are different when drugs are applied to tumour biopsies less than 30 minutes after they’re taken. In other words, using freshly taken biopsies is a more accurate research method, which allows recreating in Vivo conditions in an ex Vivo setting more closely. Researchers say that this approach reveals how long antibodies stay active in patients or when they are taken into the tumour where they’re destroyed. Scientists say that fresh biopsies will help both doctors and drug manufacturers to improve their understanding about how drugs interact with patients, and respond to targeted treatments.

Researchers created an entirely new technique based on these findings. It includes  a step-by-step process, guiding specialists towards the most accurate and useful results. Dr Fiona Simpson, inventor of the technique, said: “We’ve created a comprehensive process, including detailed videos on tumour extraction and drug-testing processes, for researchers around the world to use. The technique is useful for all types of cancers, and we’re very excited about its possibilities.”

This is a good reminder that scientists are not just creating medicine and inventions. They are also developing techniques and methods. In this case they are improving the way cancer drugs are tested and administered. This can lead to bigger and more important advancements in the future.

Medicine is changing all the time, but at the same time its practices are quite rigid. Scientists cannot forecast when this new technique will reach a clinical setting. Hopefully, not too much of further testing and research are required and this technique can spread quickly to hospitals and laboratories.


Source: University of Queensland