Organ-on-a-chip models ovarian cancer tumor development
Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed an organ-on-a-chip that they said could change the way clinicians approach ovarian and other cancer treatment.
“We claim several novelties in technological design as well as biological capabilities that didn’t exist in prior organs-on-chips,” researcher Abhishek Jain, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering, said in a press release.
The ovarian tumor microenvironment chip (OMTE-Chip) — approximately the size of a USB drive — models the properties of a tumor and allows researchers to study how blood platelets interact with it and make it more potent and metastatic.
By modeling the state that an actual cancer patient is in, the researchers said, clinicians then can determine the right treatment before administering it to the patient.
“We are creating a platform technology using the organ-on-a-chip approach where tumor biology can be advanced and new drugs can be identified by recreating the platelet-tumor and platelet-tumor-drug interactions under the influence of flow, supporting blood vessels and the extracellular matrix,” said Jain, who also has a joint appointment with the College of Medicine at Texas A&M.
The researchers said ovarian cancer is especially tough to monitor. Obtaining real-time data about the tumor’s properties and how it is interacting with blood cells is challenging, as tumors generally form deep inside a patient’s tissue.
Time is another key factor in mapping ovarian cancer’s progression since these tumors can quickly spread inside the body, the researchers added.
“For the first time, we identified a crucial interaction between platelets and the tumor via their surface proteins,” said Jain. “By applying high-resolution imaging, advanced cell and molecular readouts, and RNA sequencing methods leveraging the OTME-Chip, we discovered the actual genetic signaling pathways behind the blood cell-triggered metastasis of ovarian cancer and a new drug strategy to stop this process.”
The researchers published their findings on the OTME-Chip in the journal Science Advances.
The OTME-Chip’s potential applications include observing how cancer cells interact differently with vascular and blood cells and testing new ways to treat the disease that may complement chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Jain said.
“This multimodal OTME-Chip is going to provide an ideal platform to the health care researchers to evaluate their anti-cancer, vascular and hematological drugs individually or in combination in an artificially created human-level tumor microenvironment,” he said.
The researchers recently submitted a patent disclosure with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, according to the release.