The Woman’s Board Fund for Precision Oncology Research
“In a person, we can only give one treatment at a time. With tumor organoids, we can divide the cells to test response to multiple drugs at the same time.“ Dr. Mia Levy, MD, PhD, director of Rush University Cancer Center
Tumor organoids are three-dimensional masses of cells artificially grown from a patient’s cancer cells and sometimes referred to as “mini tumors.”
With additional research, this novel technology has the potential to be a game changer in cancer care, enabling scientists to study each patient’s unique case in the laboratory setting and evaluate the organoid’s response to several therapies — ultimately guiding oncologists’ selection of the most effective possible treatments. Support from The Woman’s Board will:
- Contribute to the collection/storage of biospecimens and provide the seed funding needed to develop organoids
- Provide the personnel resources to validate organoids and study how reliable they are at modeling each patient’s tumor
- Allow researchers to conduct observational studies that answer the critical question: How effectively do organoids mimic the function of patients’ tumors when exposed to the same treatments? Does the drug response of the organoid match the tumor response in the person?
- Enable scientists to gather preliminary data to apply for grant applications to sustain this leading-edge research
The Power of Scale
The Woman’s Board Fund for Precision Oncology Research will scale and accelerate this research program, positioning Rush investigators among a small handful of research groups in the country and one of the most well-equipped to translate scientific findings into patient care. Funding will enable researchers to collect and store cancer tissues; develop three-dimensional tumor organoids; and lead translational research projects that improve outcomes for patients with lung, breast, ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers characterized by solid tumors. If a tumor organoid drug screen can predict a patient’s tumor response to treatment, potential applications include:
- Future studies to evaluate the clinical utility of organoid drug screen in treatment decision making
- Evaluate potential efficacy of novel drug treatments before clinical trials
- Inform clinical trial designs for novel therapies
- Enable studies to evaluate mechanisms of drug resistance
Rapid advancements in cancer research – particularly discoveries related to cancer’s genetic underpinnings — have empowered today’s oncologists with tools to evaluate each patient’s tumor at the molecular level and better predict how he or she will respond to available therapies. This approach is known as precision oncology, and although it is beginning to revolutionize cancer treatment, much more scientific study is needed to fully deliver on the promise of this research. At Rush, Dr. Levy has assembled a team of expert researchers including Jeffrey Borgia, PhD; Ashiq Masood, MD; and Casey Frankenberger, PhD, to advance precision oncology by developing and studying tumor organoids — a potential breakthrough in cancer research.