The incidence rates of breast cancer have been increasing worldwide for the past few decades. Advances in breast cancer detection techniques and treatment approaches are responsible for reduced mortality; however, even with newer drugs that induce a better response and have fewer side effects, the problem of determining the best individualized chemotherapy regimen still remains largely unaddressed and there are still no reliable and cost-effective screening modalities for assessing tumor-specific chemosensitivity in breast cancer patients. A successful screening assay would need to provide timely, accurate and cost-effective input to the oncologist in advance of determining the first-line regimen. The research lab is developing a patient-specific chemosensitivity assay based on a proprietary three-dimensional (3D) tumor culture matrix used to cultivate small samples from tumor biopsies in the presence of chemotherapy drugs in the culture medium. The gel matrix encapsulates the patient’s tumor biopsy sample in a hydrogel milieu that mimics the 3D nature of the body’s extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM-like features of the encapsulating gel matrix facilitate the massive migration of malignant cells from the biopsy into the surrounding gel. The transparent gel also enables direct visualization of the metastatic cell invasion distance from the core biopsy samples using simple contrast-enhanced microscopy.
- Using an in vitro 3D tumor growth model that better replicates the in vivo tumor environment; selectively promoting metastatic cell growth by controlling material properties of the encapsulating milieu; simple tumor preparation protocol ; straightforward, timely measurement of chemotherapy drug activity
Applications and Opportunities
- Diagnosis of breast cancer chemosensitivity