3D Cell Culture Systems in Cancer Organoids Reveal Drug Efficacy that is Undetectable in Traditional 2D Monolayer Systems

CARDIFF, UK, August 26, 2020 / B3C newswire / --A new paper exploring the application of patient-derived organoids (PDOs) in the study of novel inhibitors of stem cell activity has recently been published in the journal PLOS ONE (Badder et al., 2020).

The study utilised 3D image-based morphometric analysis to quantify over 600 different features from individual organoids following treatment with inhibitors of the tankyrase protein (TNKSi). While the morphometric analysis approach mirrored the trend seen in traditional biochemical assays, importantly this more sophisticated method was able to detect subtle alterations in growth and morphology in response to TNKSi with much greater accuracy. This leads to the conclusion that whilst traditional biochemical assays still have value in detecting compounds that merit further investigation in early stage drug discovery, combining these with 3D morphological analysis could be the key to unlocking the full potential of organoids in predictive drug testing at a much larger scale.

The study was led by Cellesce founding director Professor Trevor Dale’s Cardiff University-based academic research group working together with Cellesce and other partners. It describes the derivation of a novel set of colorectal cancer PDOs. The PDO models are then used as a platform to test the response of colorectal cancer to Wnt pathway modulation using small molecule TNKSi. The work utilises a range of analysis techniques and highlights 3D quantitative image analysis in particular as having the potential to greatly enhance the high throughput prediction of compound efficacy in pre-clinical testing.

In recent years, there has been a shift within the drug discovery industry to focus on the development of compounds targeting ‘cancer stem cell’ populations within tumours. Historically, conventional chemotherapeutics have aimed to target the tumour bulk, to kill as many tumour cells as possible; the effects of which are usually to drive tumour regression in the short-term, albeit with greater side-effects - and a high chance of patient relapse. It is now widely understood that, in order to permanently prevent tumour growth, the initiating cancer stem cell population must be removed or inhibited. In the patient, this might have a relatively small impact initially on overall tumour size, but a longer term more effective treatment caused not by killing the cells, but by a more subtle change in the behaviour of the cells within the tumour.

The study of such targeted compounds has led to demand for better predictive model systems. While historical drug discovery has relied heavily on the predictive power of 2D cancer cell lines, their lack of cellular heterogeneity and relevant phenotypic behaviour leaves them largely unsuited for the study of cancer stem cell inhibitors, and far from ideally placed for anti-cancer drug development in general.

PDOs – which retain intra-tumoral complexity and, crucially, stem cell function - are now gaining increasing momentum as predictive in vitro models in the drug discovery field, with the potential to reduce compound attrition rates and development costs, ultimately increasing the number of successful compounds available for use in the clinic. A more complex model, the study argues, demands a more comprehensive method of analysis that is capable of capturing the complete range of changes that may occur in response to treatment.

The paper can be accessed here:
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0235319

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Notes to editors

The organoid lines generated for this study are licensed for sale by Cellesce in large scale validated batches produced using Cellesce’s patented bioprocess.  Cellesce PDOs:

  • Are vialled ready for plating straight into the desired format
  • Come with full protocols and technical support
  • A custom expansion service is available with:
    • Culture optimisation and banking options
    • Large scale expansion with custom vialling

About Cellesce
Cellesce is a biotechnology company that has developed a patented bioprocessing technology for the propagation of organoids in culture. Cellesce is focused on the supply of standardised and well-characterised cancer organoids for large-scale applications such as compound screening, where significant quantities of reproducible batches are required.

PDOs are three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures that can self-organise into ex vivo 'mini-organs.’ They facilitate the study of tumour pathology to enable cancer drug discovery. Organoids more faithfully replicate in vivo tumours compared to conventional 2D cell line cultures and can provide more relevant pharmacological responses to therapeutic agents. By using organoids in drug discovery screening assays, scientists can identify active compounds for further progression earlier in the drug discovery process and weed out less attractive compounds before incurring higher downstream costs.

The Cellesce team is based in state-of-the-art laboratory space in the Cardiff Medicentre. Cellesce operates according to the highest ethical standards to ensure appropriate confidentiality and regulatory requirements.

Twitter: @Cellesce

Contacts

Cellesce
Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive
paul.jenkins@cellesce.com
or
Victoria Marsh Durban, Lead Scientist
victoria.marshdurban@cellesce.com
or
William Allbrook, Marketing Director 
william.allbrook@cellesce.com

Keywords: Drug Discovery; Tankyrases; Wnt Signaling Pathway; Organoids; Antineoplastic Agents; Neoplastic Stem Cells; Colorectal Neoplasms; Cell Line; Cancer Stem Cells Inhibitors;

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