Tumour Organoids for Cancer Research – miniature tumours with huge potential

In the DECIDER project, our overall goal is to deliver tools that enable more effective treatment for HGSOC patients. To that end, the use of lab-grown tumour organoids has become a real game-changer.

Tumour organoids are tiny three-dimensional structures that are created in the lab to mimic the characteristics of actual tumours. They are like miniature versions of tumours which can be cultivated and studied in the laboratory. Tumour organoids are derived by taking a small sample of cancer tissue from a patient, isolating the cancer cells, and then growing them in a special culture dish that provides the right conditions for them to form three-dimensional structures.

Researchers use tumour organoids in cancer research for several reasons:

  1. They help understand the cancer better. From organoids, scientists can learn how cancer cells grow, behave, and respond to treatments in a controlled environment.
  2. They can be used to test new drugs to see which ones are most effective at killing or stopping the growth of the cancer cells. Several different drugs can be safely applied to the organoids which cannot be tested in the patients directly.
  3. Organoids can be made from a patient’s own cancer cells, allowing researchers to test treatments that are specifically tailored to that individual’s cancer. This makes organoids enormously valuable for personalized medicine approaches.

For the work with organoids, it is very important to be able to use 3D imaging. Since the organoids grow as 3-dimensional structures, it is important that they can also be analysed as 3D structures and do not have to be taken apart into individual cells for analysis. Tumours grow as a group of cells, and the interaction of the cells within the organoids is important for their survival.

Me, Tuula Kallunki, and my team of the Cancer Invasion and Resistance group have a successful pipeline for culturing organoids and their 3D imaging and image analysis at the state-of-the-art 3D imaging facilities at the Danish Cancer Institute in Copenhagen. Using tumour organoids in cancer research is a fairly new technique, which has developed fast in the past few years. It is technically challenging and expensive but offers the unique opportunity to study tumours in a way that closely mirrors real-life conditions. Therefore, organoids are an extremely valuable tool in cancer research and will be increasingly used in the future.

Interested in learning more about organoids? Watch this video about our work on organoids at the Danish Cancer Institute.

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