Scientists have discovered new and more effective ways of growing breast cancer tumours that could accelerate research and the development of new treatments. Instead of transplanting human tumours into mice, they’ve developed a bank of “human patient-derived xenografts (PDXs)” that can be used to screen drugs. Used alongside personalised genetic tests could improve cancer treatment and outcomes.

A shortage of reliable models poses a challenge for those developing treatments for the deadliest forms of breast cancer, including drug-resistant, metastatic tumours. Researchers from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah have developed a new biobank to fill the gap.

In a new study published in Nature Cancer, the team describe how they have developed a new range of PDX models that accurately mimic the behaviour of tumours.

The team describe how they used the tumour bank to develop a personalised treatment for a breast cancer patient. The new therapy delivered a survival period three times longer than previous treatments.

“It is also, to our knowledge, the first time that such models have been used to influence the therapy choice of a breast cancer patient in a clinical trial setting,” said Alana Welm, PhD, co-lead author of the paper. “While this therapy was unfortunately not curative, it led to regression of the patient’s tumor and a longer survival period.”

The new biobank could help stimulate research into new treatments for cancer, say the authors. “Our collection facilitates drug screening on models of advanced breast cancer representing the human population likely to be in clinical trials.”

At RGCC, we welcome the development of new tools and technologies that accelerate the fight against cancer. We offer clinicians and patients access to a range of genetic tests that can improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Learn more about our cancer tests here.

You can read the full study, A human breast cancer-derived xenograft and organoid platform for drug discovery and precision oncology, here.