Researchers say they may have made a science research breakthrough in the fight against cancer by discovering how to keep tumor cells alive in the lab. Up until recently, scientists haven’t been able to keep cells alive in a way where they look and act like they would in the body. Doctors previously had to freeze or set in wax biopsied tissue to make a diagnosis.
Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. was behind the discovery. Funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense fellowship funding and an internal grant from Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute, researchers have filed two patent applications for the new technology.
Researchers at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
(photo courtesy of Georgetown)
Doctors hope that this advance might allow them to test numerous cancer-killing drugs on a patient’s own tumor cells in the lab before choosing a therapy that will work well. According to Richard Schlegel, who serves as chairman of the Department of Pathology at Georgetown, the ability to grow true cancer cells could change the way basic science works, too. Cancer cells often accumulate genetic changes in labs, and they no longer resemble the original tumor.
The pioneering new method borrows from a simple method used by stem cell researchers, according to the American Journal of Pathology. The technique combines fibroblast feeder cells and Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitor, which keep the cells alive and allow them to reproduce, respectively. Digital Journal reports that when both products were used to treat the cancer cells, they and the normal cells reverted to a “stem-like state,” according to Schlegel. This made it possible for researchers to compare both types of living cells, which wasn't an option before the science research breakthrough.
Needless to say, this discovery could have wonderful consequences for patients being treated for cancer. The personalized lab work that will take place before treatment could mean a better chance at being cured.
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