Taiwanese lab develops 'mouse avatars' to help cancer patients

2019/04/02 18:14:09 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from the NLAC website

Image taken from the NLAC website

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) The National Laboratory Animal Center (NLAC) announced Monday that it has successfully developed "mouse avatars," a method to pre-test cancer treatments in mice and guide doctors in tailoring treatment options for each patient.

To treat cancer with more precision, the NLAC first developed mice with "advanced severe immunodeficiency"(ASI) in 2015, which provided a vivo model -- one that takes place outside a patient's body -- to study human tumor tissues, according to NLAC project manager Wang Jui-ling (王瑞鈴).

This year, Wang said, researchers created "mouse avatars" by implanting tumors from different cancer patients into a set of ASI mice, then waited for the tumors to grow and tested what they felt were the optimal treatments for those mice.

The process, in which an individual's tumor was grown and treated in a specific mouse, gave physicians the chance to see which drugs might work best in treating each patient's condition, she said.

Researchers found that the tumors grown in mice were highly similar to the original tumor, and some of the initial tests have shown positive results in human patients, Wang said.

But the scientist cautioned that even with the avatars, the method is still experimental and needed more time to be tested before the results could be applied to future drug development.

Cancer is Taiwan's leading cause of death, with one person dying from cancer every 11 minutes on average.

Beyond mouse avatars, Wang said other approaches are being used to make cancer treatments more precise and effective. One way is to compare a patient's tumor specimen with a large number of tumor specimens from patients with the same cancer.

To that end, the NLAC has collected colorectal and liver cancer specimens from National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan and used cryopreservation to store them since August 2017, she said.

The NLAC has collected more than 10 types of tumors and more than 120 tumor specimens, and the resulting research data is available for all research institutions across the country, Wang said.

(By Liu Lee-jung and Chung Yu-chen)
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