GEN Protocols Expert Exchanges: Patient-Derived Pancreatic Cancer Organoids Predict Response to Therapy

Pancreatic cancer accounts for  three  percent  of   all cancers in the United States and is responsible for seven percent of all cancer deaths. Miniature organoids cloned from pancreatic tumors in patients are being grown in laboratories to conduct assays that can predict the effectiveness of chemotherapy and facilitate personalized care. Patient derived organoids (PDOs) can be cultured regardless of tumor or treatment stage. Tests conducted on PDOs can predict the efficacy of specific chemotherapy treatments and help pinpoint those that will work best in a patient. This can then help direct personalized care for better outcomes.

In a recent study conducted in collaboration with David Tuveson, MD, PhD and his team of scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Weiss and his team collected 136 tumor samples from 117 patients with pancreatic cancer, including 32 percent of organoids derived from minority populations. They successfully generated organoids from more than 70 percent tissue samples, regardless of whether the patient had previously received chemotherapy. The organoids were grown in a 3D gel matrix in a petri-dish and were exposed to various chemotherapies to predict the tumor’s sensitivity.

In this GEN Protocols’ Expert Exchange, Matthew Weiss, MD, talks about the various methods of establishing patient-derived organoids, the tests used to predict responses to chemotherapy from these cultures, and their potential applications in precision and individualized medicine approaches. 

Matthew J. Weiss, MD, FACS, is deputy physician-in-chief and director of the surgical oncology program at Northwell Cancer Institute. He’s a board-certified surgeon specializing in pancreas and liver diseases and a professor at the Institute of Cancer Research at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. Dr. Weiss completed his residency in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was dual fellowship trained in surgical oncology and hepatobiliary surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was previously chief of hepatobiliary surgery at Johns Hopkins, where he was also director of the Pancreas and Liver Multidisciplinary Clinics and the complex general surgical oncology fellowship. Joining Northwell in 2019, Dr. Weiss created a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, geneticists, and other specialists who collaborate to create unique treatment plans for patients across the health system. An international leader in both liver and pancreas surgery, Dr. Weiss has authored over 250 peer-reviewed publications in the field, and he’s currently a professor of surgery and oncology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. Dr. Weiss focuses on using cancer genetics to help find the right surgical approach for patients. When possible, he operates robotically using small incisions for faster healing, so patients don’t have to wait as long to receive additional therapies that can improve outcomes. 

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