Organoids from bladder cancer could help doctors treat disease

By Allen Cone  |  April 6, 2018 at 11:33 AM
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April 6 (UPI) -- Organoids derived from a patient's bladder cancer cells hold promise for future treatment of the disease, according to researchers in a new study.

Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian created the organoids, which are a miniaturized and simplified version of an organ, that mimic actual tumors. The research, involving these 3-D spheres derived from patients' bladder cancer tumors, was published Thursday in the journal Cell.

Each year about 55,000 men and 17,000 women get bladder cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surgery to remove the tumor plus immunotherapy or chemotherapy are now used to treat bladder cancer. But the tumors have a high recurrence rate, requiring repeat treatment, and some ultimately invade the bladder muscle.

Researchers said it is one of the least understood cancers because few animal studies reflect the biology of the disease.

"The creation of bladder cancer organoids is an important advance in the field," Dr. James M. McKiernan, chairman of urology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and urologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, said in a press release. "This should greatly improve our understanding of the genomics of bladder cancer, how these tumors respond to drugs, and how they develop drug resistance. Ultimately, this may allow us to develop new therapies for the disease and predict an individual patient's response to treatment."

The molecular profiling of an individual patient's tumor identified genetic mutations that expand the cancer.

"The great advantage of organoids is that they are essentially avatars of a patient's tumor," study leader Dr. Michael M. Shen, professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Having these personalized laboratory models, which we can make in a matter of weeks, will let us test multiple different drugs on the tumor and help us bring precision medicine to individuals with bladder cancer."

About four years ago, Shen began developing bladder cancer organoids. He needed to determine the right mix of nutrients, growth factors and tissue culture techniques to create these tumor organoids in a petri dish. He said conditions can vary greatly from one type of cancer to another.

In this study, his lab made organoids from the tumor cells of 22 patients with invasive bladder cancer, and successfully made them from three patients before and after treatment.

"This offers a new way to study the molecular mechanisms associated with drug response and drug resistance," said Shen.

The researchers are planning "co-clinical" trials, in which patients and their corresponding organoids are treated with the same drug.

"This would establish whether organoids can be used to predict how an individual patient will respond to a specific therapy," Shen said. "At present, it's very difficult to know beforehand exactly which drugs may be most effective for a given patient."

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