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Cancer tumours grown in lab

20th December 2011

Researchers in the US have discovered a way of extracting tumours from people without killing the tumour cells, allowing them to observe the way cancers grow, and generating a hubbub in the scientific community.

cancercell

Scientists had previously been unable to make cancer cells live in laboratories for anything but very short periods of time.

Richard Schlegel, chairman of the department of pathology at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre, who lead the study, said that advances in technology had fuelled hopes of a new form of cancer treatment that derived cancer-killing drugs from people's own cells, describing that process as the ultimate form of personalised medicine.

He said that being able to suit therapies exactly to people's tissues would hypothetically involve deriving normal tissue and tumour tissue from a particular patient, making a therapy based on a specific match.

Using the method, which borrows from stem cell research, the researchers were able to keep lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancers alive for up to two years.

The method makes use of fibroblast feeder cells, which keep the tumours alive, and what are known as Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitors, allowing the tumours to reproduce.

The two methods are used in stem cell therapies to convert human tissue to stem cells.

Schlegel said that he and his colleagues were very excited about the possible treatment possibilities that might arise from the new technique.

David Rimm, a pathology professor at Yale University, who was not involved in the study, said that none of the actual methods used by the scientists were new.

He said, however, that the particular combination of existing techniques which the researchers had used was very clever.

Rimm said he had initially felt inclined to be sceptical about results that had not yet been repeated. But he said a colleague of his had succeeded in using the technique with pancreatic cancer cells.

Marc Symons, an investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research New York, who was also not involved in the study, said that the fact that tumours from one patient were often so different from those in any other given patient, even though they appeared to be the same under a pathologist's microscope, was an important reason why so many clinical trials in cancer medicine failed.

He said the new technique could revolutionise the way doctors thought of cancer treatment.

 

 

 

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