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02
May
2018

Dr Guillermo Gomez’s Infrastructure Grant project: Using brain tissue organoid models for personalised brain cancer care

 

Cancer cell invasion, whereby cancer cells invade healthy cells and tissue, is a central characteristic of malignant brain tumours, and is significantly correlated with a poor patient prognosis. This cellular invasion is largely the result of the evolving tumour microenvironment – molecular changes that occur in the immediate area around the tumour. Currently, there is no effective therapeutic target to stop this process. Dr Guillermo Gomez from the Centre for Cancer Biology – a partnership between SA Pathology and the University of South Australia - and his multidisciplinary team of experts, are working to change this. 

Dr Gomez will lead a project that aims to use brain organoids to understand the process of cancer cell invasion, and the potential drugs that can stop it. Organoids are essentially ‘mini organs’, created from genetically engineered cells, to model a healthy human brain.*

These organoids are grown by Dr Gomez’s laboratory in Adelaide. Researchers conducting this project will place patient’s tumour cells inside these brain tissue models, which will allow them to investigate how the cancer invades the organoid and what drugs have the potential to interfere with this process. The organoids therefore act to model a tumour and its microenvironment, allowing the team to investigate how these elements interact to encourage cell invasion. 

Cancer cell invasion will be mapped using fluorescent proteins and time-lapse multiphoton microscopy. This aims to provide a fast, patient-personalised measure of cancer invasion.

For patients, this project has the potential to be life-changing. Researchers can deliver personalised information regarding the drugs that inhibit cellular invasion in a matter of weeks after a brain cancer patient’s surgery, rather than months. As almost all cases of glioblastoma result in a recurrence, these results are clinically relevant, with the ability to inform future treatments.  

Innovative research reproducing human disease in organoids is a new therapeutic development for brain cancer. Previous progresses have relied on discoveries involving cell lines, mouse and patient derived xenografts, which lack the capability to model human brain cancer in the body. Organoids have the capacity to more accurately reflect the physiology and genetics of the human brain, thereby being excellent models for the study of brain cancer. It is the aim of Dr Gomez, to have this platform used nation-wide by brain cancer researchers and specialists.

Dr Gomez is one of the recipients of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s Infrastructure Grant, receiving funding of $400,000 over four years to fund this capacity building research within Australia. 

*Organoids are 1mm models of the human brain. They do not have the ability to think, develop a consciousness or process thought. 

 

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