It is now widely accepted in the medical field that in order to make major advances in the treatment of cancer, each patient should receive an individualised treatment plan tailored specifically to them. This is known as personalised medicine.

Background of the study:

It is now widely accepted that no two cancers are the same and as such, patient’s response to treatments differ, even if the cancer belongs to the same type. The medical field is now beginning to investigate ways in which therapeutics can be tested on a case-to-case basis in a move towards personalised medicine.

This involves an assessment in the laboratory to define the susceptibility of cancer cells to available treatments.

Unfortunately, in many cases laboratory models for tumour growth do not actually mimic the microenvironment in which the cancer resides in, as this contains many different types of cells, compounds and biological structures that can alter how tumour cells behave and how they response to treatment.

The aim of this research was to generate 3D osteosarcoma models named ‘‘tumouroids”, which more accurately reproduce the bone cancer mass and its surroundings.

One key advantage of this system, is that the tumour cells can be derived directly from patients, therefore resulting in a patient-specific-model that may predict better how the patient would respond to therapy.

Results of this Study:

It is known that the environment in which tumours grow has a significant impact on osteosarcoma. This research focussed on investigating how the presence of a bone like environment can influence the behaviour of tumour cells.

The research team constructed a 3D-matrix by mixing bone-marrow proteins (laminin and fibronectin) with NuOssÒbone granules - a natural bone mineral product which has macro and microscopic structures like human bone.

When osteosarcoma cells were grown within this bone-like mixture, the researchers observed increased movement of tumour cells from the bone-like mixture into the surrounding bone marrow-like area without cells, mimicking the processes of tumour expansion and invasion into surrounding tissues observed in patients.

Interestingly, this bone-like 3D mixture also changed the way osteosarcoma tumour cells responded to doxorubicin, a common chemotherapeutic agent used to treat osteosarcoma, and reproduced problems observed during treatment, like bone drug penetration and resistance to drug treatment.

This is the first 3D cancer cell laboratory model incorporating proteins and mineral components of the bone microenvironment. It highlights how osteosarcoma cells adapt in response to changes in their surroundings and respond to drug treatment.

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