Organoids are ‘mini-organs’ - 3D clusters of cells that represent a specific organ or tumour. The aim is to closely replicate how cells work in the body, so they can be used to understand how a tumour or organ works or responds to a treatment. “The idea is to get organoids from patients that have a broad range of cancers, so we can model the whole range of cancers in a population,” said Laura Letchford, a Senior Research Assistant in CGaP.
The team is part of an international effort to create hundreds of cancer organoids1. They are constantly refining and developing their techniques to create organoids from different tissues. Success rates vary between cancer types but are usually about 30 per cent. A successful organoid can be divided, frozen, thawed and it will re-grow, meaning it can be kept alive indefinitely in a laboratory.
“We are very transparent with what we are doing – both the methods and results we are getting,” said Mya. “Open data is really important to us. Scientists can contact us, and we undertake a lot of collaborative work.”
Once created, an organoid model is sent to ATCC2 to be stored and distributed, making it available for any researcher worldwide to use.
Within the Sanger Institute, the organoid models are sent to DNA pipelines for sequencing to uncover genetic changes leading to cancer, used to test potential cancer drug treatments, and used in projects employing CRISPR-Cas9 technology to understand the role of each gene in the genome - all as part of the cancer research programme3.