Dutch Researchers Develop ‘Real Life’ Model for Immunotherapy in Cancer

Tumor organoids reduce in size upon contact with immune cells

Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute have shown that it is possible to obtain immune cells (so-called killer T cells) from the bloodstream of a cancer patient and expand them in a dish together with a living piece of tumor from the same patient. The tumor section, known as a tumor organoid, reduces in size as the immune cells develop the ability to kill the tumor cells while leaving healthy control tissue of the same patient untouched.

This gives researchers the ability to study the complex interaction between immune cells and cancer cells. The researchers will also use this new research platform to enable—in the long term—cellular immunotherapy: treatment of the patient with his or her own immune cells as ‘living drugs.’

Researchers Krijn Dijkstra et al. published these results on August 9th on the website of the scientific journal Cell. The research was led by Emile Voest (contact person) and Ton Schumacher.

Recently, tumor organoids have been shown to retain the morphological and mutational properties of the original tumor. This has opened the door to studying tumors outside the patient’s body and to testing the effects of various drugs. However, tumor organoids had not yet been used to study immunotherapy.

“To answer our questions about whether or not immune therapy is successful, there is a great need for good “real life” models. This is certainly going to help,” said Krijn Dijkstra, physician-researcher who is writing his doctoral thesis on this study.

“We were anxiously waiting for such a research platform,” says internist-oncologist Emile Voest, who has led the research. Voest added that no loboratory animals were used in the study.

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