3D Organoids Lead the Way for Personalized Cancer Therapy | Cancer Research | Corning

As oncology researchers continue to find immense value in the applications of 3D organoids for their work, one area stands to gain a great deal from the advancements of these in vivo-like environments and cultures: personalized medicine.

As an inherently molecular approach to cancer therapy, precision medicine relies entirely on matching up individualized responses with potential treatments — something organoids are uniquely suited to predict given their composition. Organoids are derived from stem cells or progenitor cells, and when mixed with a hydrogel, such as Corning® Matrigel® matrix or collagen for organoid cultures, create a functioning mini-manifestation of the parent organ.

What results is a tiny bladder, breast, liver, or other material that you can see, study, and interact with to test and optimize cancer therapies — just as if it were in vivo. But it's not, and that has many advantages.

Benefits of Organoids for Precision Medicine

Organoids' utility — like their biology — is multidimensional: As authors of an exploratory paper in the Journal of Hematology and Oncology pointed out, 3D organoids are ideal for personalized medicine because they can mimic in vivo biology in genotype and phenotype, plus represent natural iterative evolutions that can span multiple generations.

They have the benefit of speed and scale too. In comparison to xenograft murine models which can take months to grow enough for single use, 3D organoids require less time to establish given the stem cells' recapitulating nature. Certain techniques in the lab can save even more time: As reported in The Scientist, one UCLA researcher's system grows organoids from ovarian resections within just a week's time.

As a result, you can simultaneously test multiple drugs on multiple organoids to predict response with stunning accuracy. According to one study involving gastrointestinal cancer therapies3D organoids detected when drugs would fail 100 percent of the time, and when they would succeed nearly 90 percent of the time.

Organoids, Today and Tomorrow

Such positive results indicate incredible promise for 3D organoids' application in personalized approaches for those who lack detectable DNA alterations that otherwise make conventional therapies work for the vast majority of cancer patients.

So far, organoids exist for several types of cancers, including those of the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, bladder, breast, and prostate, among others. Specific to precision medicine, researchers have also used organoid technology to optimize drug combinations within uterine and endometrial malignancies, as well as late-stage colorectal cancer and others.

Up until now, those advances have made organoids "all the rage," as one molecular geneticist told The Scientist, but their contributions to personalized medicine are still in discovery. In the future, additional efforts such as those in "co-culturing" — that is, establishing organoids along with macrophages and fibroblasts, for example — could make them even more useful in bringing new personalized medicines to the patients who need them most.