New cancer study highlights method of screening therapies

A recent study from the UW Carbone Cancer Center highlights a new method for screening cancer drugs with no risk to the patient.

Scientists at UW-Madison created a three-dimensional model using real tissues from a patient to grow blood vessels on a specialized structure. They used both normal and cancerous tissues, in order to replicate the environment within the target patient’s body.

With their reactive model, the researchers were able to test drugs used to treat the most common type of kidney cancer: renal cell carcinoma. According to a release from UW-Madison, this cancer is resistant to chemotherapy, so it’s normally treated with drugs that cut off the blood supply tumors need to grow. That growth process is referred to as angiogenesis.

The risk with these anti-angiogenic drugs is that certain patients react differently, and that can have serious unintended consequences.

“In this type of cancer, clinicians report that giving the patients the wrong drug can be counterproductive,” said Maria Virumbrales-Munoz, one of the study authors. “You can actually increase angiogenesis and feed the tumor more.”

She says this modeling approach to drug screening could inform treatment decisions, as care providers could determine how a treatment affects any given patient before going ahead with it.

“This is the first model for renal cell carcinoma that enables personalized anti-angiogenic drug testing,” said Jose “Tony” Jimenez-Torres, the other study author.

Their work took place in the laboratory of David Beebe, a professor of biomedical engineering, pathology and laboratory medicine at UW-Madison. The study was published recently in the scientific journal EBioMedicine.

According to a release, the research group has been given a $1.5 million “Cancer Moonshot” grant from the National Cancer Institute to see how their model compares to actual patient drug reactions.

In this follow-on clinical study, patients will be imaged before and after drug treatment to gauge their responses. At the same time, tumor tissues will be grown in Beebe’s lab and treated with the same drugs. Then, responses will be compared to test the lab model’s predictive ability.

“Our future goal is not to test every single patient, but to develop a list of markers that will better predict which patient will respond to a treatment,” said Virumbrales-Munoz.

See more from the study:

See details on the upcoming clinical trial:   

–By Alex Moe