BOSTON Improving on traditional screening tests for potential anti-cancer drugs, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have developed a laboratory technique that more closely simulates the real-world conditions in which tumor cells mingle with the body's normal cells.
Because these neighboring cells key components of what is known as the "tumor microenvironment" can alter the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs, the new technique may help researchers narrow the field of possible therapies more quickly and identify the most promising candidates more readily. The technique, described in a study published online today by the journal Nature Medicine, can be used to study a wide variety of cancer cells that infiltrate an equally wide range of normal tissues, the authors say.
"Despite their often impressive results in the laboratory, for every 100 potential anti-cancer therapies administered in patients in clinical trials, only about eight prove safe and effective enough to receive Food and Drug Administration approval," says the study's senior author, Constantine Mitsiades, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber. "This success rate is clearly not as high as we would like it to be, and one reason may be that so far we haven't had a good way to account, at the earliest stages of laboratory testing, for the impact of the tumor microenvironment on these drugs."
In conventional drug screenings, different types of cancer cells are exposed to hundreds or thousands of compounds under laboratory conditions in which only tumor cells are present. The compounds that prove best at killing tumor cells are then earmarked for further study.
A shortcoming of this approach, Mitsiades says, is that "in the human body, tumor cells don't grow in isolation, but come in contact with a wide variety of non-malignant cells. Many of these 'accessory' cells support one another through direct contact or by producing substances known as growth factors. Tumor cells can take adva
|Contact: Teresa Herbert|
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute