‘Three-dimensional tumour models’ give hope for asbestos-related cancer

Posted 30 Jan 2024
Mesothelioma - a cancer associated with asbestos exposure - has a very poor prognosis, with the majority of patients sadly surviving less than a year after diagnosis.

But ‘3D models’ created from patient’s individual cancer cells could pave the way for personalised treatment for patients with the cancer to help improve outcomes.

Flinders University researcher Dr Ash Hocking has been awarded a Flinders Foundation Cancer Seed Grant to grow ‘mini tumours in a dish’ – called organoid co-culture models – using cells from individual patients with mesothelioma to test and predict in the laboratory how their own cancer cells might respond to immunotherapy treatment.

Immunotherapy is a common first-line treatment option for patients with mesothelioma, and acts by aiding the patient’s own white blood cells to kill cancer cells.

But, there is currently no way of predicting who will benefit from the treatment, which can also have significant side effects. 

“Unfortunately, only 32 per cent of patients will respond to treatment, which is also associated with a number of toxic side effects,” Dr Hocking explains.  

“We need new strategies to guide therapy selection so patients can receive the most effective treatment for them based on their own tumours’ unique set of characteristics.  

“Innovative cancer organoid models, where a persons’ own cancer cells are used to create three-dimensional “mini tumours in a dish” have been used to accurately predict therapy response in other cancers – this project now employs our world first mesothelioma 3D organoid model with the aim of developing a personalised medicine approach to the treatment of mesothelioma.”

Project title: Predicting immunotherapy response using patient-derived cancer organoid models 

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