The over-arching objective of the centre is to develop patient-relevant models that accurately predict clinical efficacy of a new range of anti-cancer drugs. This involves modelling the tumour microenvironment as a whole with mixed cell types, including cells of stromal origin and components of the extra-cellular matrix.
The centre, opened in March 2010, is funded by a multi-million pound research grant from Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.
The Ex Vivo Cancer Pharmacology Centre has a strong interest in using and developing three-dimensional tumour models for pre-clinical testing of anti-cancer agents. These models more closely represent the conditions found in real human tumours and are hoped to be more predictive of patient outcome than commonly used two-dimensional cell culture techniques.
Making the models as close to patients as possible, we are developing three dimensional assays in which low passage patient tumour cells are embedded in basement membrane, alongside patient-relevant tumour-associated stromal cells.
Potential drugs are tested in these models under biochemically matched pH and oxygen concentration. Advancing the sophistication of pre-clinical testing is essential in the testing of the new classes of molecular targeted anti-cancer agents and, it is hoped, will reduce the number of drugs which fail in human clinical trials. An imaging component will be added to the project with time allowing proliferation of different cell types and imaging of the biology of the tumour microenvironment by use of lentiviral-based reporter systems.
The longer term objective is to identify biomarkers of drug response that can be used to identify those patients likely to respond to molecularly-targeted cancer agents.
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