Biomarker- and molecular-driven technologies such as molecular models can precisely predict how an individual’s cancer will respond to certain treatments, the pinnacle of precision oncology. However, established modeling systems such as patient-derived xenografts and patient-derived organoids require large tissue samples and take months or even a year to obtain results, barriers that have limited their application in regular practice.

Researchers discovered that a new technique using micro-organospheres can produce an accurate molecular model of a patient’s cancer and how it responds to potential treatment options in just 14 days using low-volume tissue samples. They published the findings in Cell Stem Cell.

Using core needle biopsies from eight patients with newly diagnosed advanced colorectal cancer, the researchers created micro-organosphere molecular models for each patient in less than two weeks from the time of their biopsies and tested the models for response to oxaliplatin. The agent killed the micro-organospheres in 50% of the models, with the remaining models only mildly or unaffected.

All of the patients went on to receive oxaliplatin treatment. Those whose micro-organosphere models responded to oxaliplatin also experienced a reduction in tumor burden, whereas patients whose models were unaffected did not.

This is the first study of micro-organosphere molecular models, and the researchers acknowledged that the findings “are just a proof of concept. We need a larger study to have the data needed to determine whether the models precisely capture patients’ response to treatment.” The researchers are currently enrolling patients for a follow-up study.

Learn more about molecular biomarkers for colorectal cancer in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.