Kyoto University researchers have developed a new 'tumor-on-a-chip' device that can better mimic the environment inside the body to test potential cancer-fighting drugs. Scientists and clinicians can go through tens of thousands of potential compounds for years to find a handful of viable candidates, only for them to fail at the clinical level.
Potential compounds are tested using animal models and cells cultured in a dish. However, those results frequently do not transfer over to human biology.
The Japanese researchers claim they managed to address this challenge by using the new chip and reported their findings in the January issue of the Biomaterials journal.
In a report published on the university's website, first author Yuji Nashimoto said: "The coin-like device has been designed to promote the growth of blood vessels in the tumor cells placed on the chip for the test."
This allows the administration of nutrients and drugs into the system to mimic the environment in the body, and thus have a clearer picture of the effectiveness of cancer-treating compounds.
"This perfusion did significantly keep the tumor cells healthy by keeping cell proliferation up and cell death down. A drug assay was then performed with the team administrating an anti-tumor drug at low doses.
Interestingly, the drug was more effective under static conditions compared to when nutrients were flowing through the tumor cells," Nashimoto explained.
In contrast, the drug's effects became more potent when the flow was turned on and the dosage was increased. According to Nashimoto, the unexpected results prove that we need to consider the balance between the proliferation of tumor cells and the efficacy of the drug under flow conditions.
The research team hopes the new device can expedite the tests on the countless number of potential new drugs. Due to its size and utility, the new chip is expected to be used on a large scale.