A research team at the University of Macau (UM) Faculty of Health Sciences, led by Chair Professor Deng Chuxia has made a breakthrough in the field of cancer precision medicine through its collaboration with the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, the Affiliated Hospital of Southwest Medical University, the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, and Zhuhai People’s Hospital.
The statement issued by the university last week pointed out that the research team used patient-derived organoids (PDOs), in vitro drug screening, and other techniques to provide individualised treatment suggestions for breast cancer patients, especially those with advanced breast cancer. The study has been published in Advanced Science.
Organoids are tiny, self-organised three-dimensional tissue cultures that are derived from stem cells. Such cultures can be crafted to replicate much of the complexity of an organ, or to express selected aspects of it like producing only certain types of cells, according the November 2017 article “Organoids: A new window into disease, development and discovery” by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
The statement underlined that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Recurrence and metastasis are the main causes of breast cancer death. The tumours often show resistance to drug treatment, and there has been no effective precise treatment strategy.
According to the statement, the UM researchers generated 99 organoid lines in vitro using tumour samples from breast cancer patients, and developed PDOs as a real-time platform for drug testing.
The results showed that breast cancer PDOs could preserve the biological characteristics of primary tumours. PDO pharmaco-phenotyping showed striking variability in the PDO response to the drug treatment. The PDO chemosensitivity profile largely paralleled the retrospective clinical data of the corresponding patients, the statement said.
Finally, PDOs were applied to guide personalised therapy for six patients with advanced cancer, all of whom showed good responses. Based on the above findings, the team proposed a novel precision treatment strategy for breast cancer based on drug screening of PDOs, which is a new direction for cancer precision medicine with important clinical significance, according to the statement.
In the past year, Prof. Deng’s team has achieved multiple major breakthroughs in cancer precision medicine, and the results have been published in internationally renowned journals, including Nature Communications, Advanced Science, and Theranostics. In addition, the University of Macau was granted official approval by the Ministry of Education in December 2020 to establish the Frontiers Science Centre for Precision Oncology. The centre aims to provide cancer patients with high-end personalised medicine for preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, the statement said.
The corresponding authors of the study are Prof. Deng, Prof. Lin Ying in the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, and Prof. Shi Yanxia at the Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Centre.
UM FHS postdoctoral fellow Chen Ping is the first author of the study. Other members of the FHS, namely Associate Professor Xu Xiaoling, research assistants Zhang Xu and Lyu Xueying, and PhD students Ding Renbo and Zeng Jianming, as well as physician Yang Linglin at the Affiliated Hospital of Southwest Medical University also made important contributions to the study, the statement underlined.
The study was supported by the Macao’s Science and Technology Development Fund, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Ministry of Education Frontiers Science Centre for Precision Oncology at the University of Macau.