Device helps doctors personalize chemotherapy for patients

The device allows doctors to test drug combinations more quickly and using far fewer cancer stem cells than other methods of testing.

By Stephen Feller

GAINESVILLE, Fla., July 2 (UPI) -- A new microarray can test combinations of chemotherapy drugs on a small number of cancer stem cells, allowing doctors to tailor treatment for individual patients faster than such testing generally takes.

Currently, doctors determine the best course of treatment by trying combinations of drugs directly on patients.


"The potential for treatment is that we can do a lot of testing and know what will work in the patient," said Emina H. Huang, M.D., a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, professor of surgery at the Clinic's Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, in a press release. "The ability to test multiple chemotherapy treatments with fewer cancer cells is a big advancement."

The microarray is a piece of glass about the size of a quarter with a grid of several hundred polymer "islands." Different combinations and doses of drugs are added to each of the islands and then cancer stem cells are added to the array. Doctors then watch the cells interact with the drugs to determine the best course of treatment.

The major breakthrough of the device, researchers say, is that it can test drug efficacy with less than 6 percent of the stem cells this type of testing generally requires. Cancer stem cells are difficult to obtain from patients because they typically make up about 1 percent of a tumor, making the process expensive and time consuming.


The device was tested using cancer cells taken from a 70-year-old stage IV colorectal cancer patient and a 60-year-old stage III colorectal cancer patient using about 200 cells per island on the device, which they said was 16 times fewer cells normally required to test drug effects.

Although the tests were on colorectal cancer cells, the device could be used on virtually any cancer that has a solid tumor, said Dr. Benjamin G. Keselowsky, an associate professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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