Scientists have derived a collection of 3D cultures or "organoids" from tumors of cancer patients that closely replicate key properties of the original tumors.
These "organoid" cultures or a living "biobank" can help detect genetic changes associated with drug sensitivity and pave the way for personalized cancer treatment.
"We believe that these organoids are an important new tool in the arsenal of cancer biologists and may ultimately improve our ability to develop more effective cancer treatments," explained senior study author Mathew Garnett, geneticist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a non-profit organization situated outside Cambridge.
In contrast to cell lines, organoids display the hallmarks of the original tissue in terms of its 3D architecture, the cell types present and their self-renewal properties.
In the new study, the researchers grew 22 organoids derived from tumor tissue from 20 patients with colorectal cancer and then sequenced genomic DNA isolated from these cultures.
The genetic mutations in the organoid cultures closely matched those in the corresponding tumor biopsies and agreed well with previous large-scale analyses of colorectal cancer mutations.
"These findings confirm that the cultures faithfully capture the genomic features of the tumors from which they are derived as well as much of the genomic diversity associated with colorectal cancer," the authors noted.
To link drug sensitivity to genetic changes, the researchers next screened the responses of the organoids to 83 experimental and approved cancer drugs.
Given their diverse genetic profiles, the organoids displayed a range of sensitivities to the drugs.
"At some point in the future, this approach may be suitable for modeling individual patient response to cancer therapies to inform clinical treatment," Garnett noted.
Moving forward, the researchers plan to develop an organoid biobank for other tumor types.
The study appeared in the journal Cell.