If a person has recurrent metastatic cancer – meaning their tumours return even after standard chemotherapy – the prognosis is bleak. Such patients are great candidates for experimental treatments, but with so few months to live and so many drugs to choose from, picking one that gives the best chance of extending life is largely a matter of luck. Now, however, there may be a way to test multiple experimental drugs in parallel, saving valuable time and possibly lives. Biopsies taken from the tumours of patients with certain cancers, such as gastro-oesophageal and colorectal cancer, can be used to create miniature lab-grown tumour organoids (pictured). At the cell and molecular level, these organoids are excellent matches to patients' tumours. So much so in fact that their response to drugs in culture can predict the patient’s response to drugs in the clinic, providing a speedy way to find one that works.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.