In what is being hailed as a breakthrough in personalized cancer treatment, Johns Hopkins scientists have developed a way to custom-design chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients by using cell lines created from their own tumors.
The medical advance, published online in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, opens the door to better alternatives to current laboratory tests now used to optimize drug selection for patients — tests that have proven technically challenging, of limited use, and slow, the researchers said.
Anirban Maitra, a professor of pathology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, noted cancer specialists now typically choose chemotherapy drugs based on the affected organs' location or the appearance of tumors when viewed under a microscope. Some companies offer tests on removed tumors using a small number of anticancer drugs. But Maitra said the tissue samples used in such tests may have been affected by drugs or during shipment to a lab, compromising test results.
"Our cell lines better and more accurately represent the tumors, and can be tested against any drug library in the world to see if the cancer is responsive," he said, explaining how the new Johns Hopkins technique can more accurately predict which drugs will be most effective for particular patients.
The Johns Hopkins scientists developed their cell lines by injecting human pancreatic and ovarian tumor cells into mice genetically engineered to grow tumors. The researchers then treated the tumors with a variety of drugs to see which ones would best destroy the cells.
By using the technique, the team was able to identify two anticancer drugs — from among more than 3,000 — that were the most effective in killing the tumors.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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