Why we write about this topic:
Every year, around 320.000 people get blood cancer in Europe. Many types of blood cancer are now highly treatable, but there’s still a lot of improvement to be done. This new technique opens up new possibilities to test multiple anti-cancer drugs at the same time to further improve treatment. That’s why Innovation Origins selected this article.
Scientists from Oxford University and the University of Birmingham have made the first bone marrow organoids (artificially grown miniature organs) that include all the key components of human marrow. This technology allows for the screening of multiple anti-cancer drugs at the same time, as well as testing personalized treatments for individual cancer patients, writes the university in a press release.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, describes a new method using human stem cells grown in a specially designed 3D ‘scaffold’, to generate the key cell types that exist in human bone marrow. These new organoids can also keep cancer cells from blood cancer patients alive in the lab, something that was very difficult before. This means that doctors may now be able to test customised treatments for specific patients on their own cancer cells, to find the treatments most likely to treat the cancer.
First author of the study Abdullah Khan from the University of Birmingham said: “Remarkably, we found that the cells in their bone marrow organoids resemble real bone marrow cells, but not just in terms of their activity and function. The cell types also ‘self-organize’ and arrange themselves within the organoids just like they do in human bone marrow in the body. This is a huge step forward, enabling insights into the growth patterns of cancer cells and a more personalized approach to treatment.”
This life-like architecture enabled the team to study how the cells in the bone marrow interact to support normal blood cell production, and how this is disturbed in bone marrow fibrosis (also known as myelofibrosis), where scar tissue builds up in the bone marrow, causing bone marrow failure. Bone marrow fibrosis can develop in patients with certain types of blood cancers, and remains incurable.
The senior study author from Oxford University, Professor Bethan Psaila, said: “To properly understand how and why blood cancers develop, we need to use experimental systems that closely resemble how real human bone marrow works, which we haven’t really had before. It’s really exciting to now have this terrific system, as finally, we are able to study cancer directly using cells from our patients, rather than relying on animal models or other simpler systems.”
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