Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, University of Helsinki and Stanford University have developed a technique to keep normal and cancerous prostate tissue removed during surgery alive and functioning normally in the laboratory for up to a week.
The new technique could not only enhance research of prostate biology and cancer, but also hasten the creation of individualized medicines for prostate cancer patients, the investigators say. Previous attempts to culture live prostate tissues resulted in poor viability and lost "tissue architecture," the researchers note, making them less than useful for research or therapy development.
"Our technique could help scientists more accurately predict how living prostate tissues respond to therapy," says Marikki Laiho, M.D., Ph.D., director of the division of Molecular Radiation Sciences at Johns Hopkins. "It holds promise for testing anticancer drugs that work best."
For the study, published in the November 1 issue of Cancer Research, the scientists refined their multistep tissue culture technique and performed experiments to test the tissues' viability and utility in research. Laiho worked with Stanford University researcher Donna Peehl, Ph.D., to pilot the technique in a research project completed in 2007.
Customarily, pathologists store tissue samples in paraffin wax, which kills the tissue, resulting in samples that are essentially frozen in time. In many research laboratories, scientists experiment with prostate cancer cells that have been grown in flasks filled with nutrients and kept under strict temperature conditions. But these cells are not connected together in the tightly knit architecture of tissue that exists in the actual prostate gland.
"Tissue architecture may hold clues to why certain therapies work and others fail, and may be a better model of the intact, in vivo prostate gland," says Laiho, who is the Willard and Lillian Hackerman
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Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions