New screening tool could increase the number of tests on solid tumor samples by up to 50 times

A screening tool developed at the University of Strathclyde, UK, could increase the number of tests on a solid tumor sample by up to 50-fold.

The tool enables large-scale testing of the latest immunotherapies, such as Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which is effective against many hematologic cancers, but presents challenges in the treatment of solid tumors.

Currently used, traditional 2D models fail to reproduce the complexity of the tumor microenvironment, while models based on patients’ tumors are expensive and labor-intensive; 3D models reproduce much better what happens in the body.

The Strathclyde-led study has developed a miniaturized platform for screening 3D tumor models to evaluate the toxicity of CAR-T therapy to cells. The platform enabled visualization and quantification of how CART cells quickly targeted, broke and killed cancer cells without causing significant damage to other cells.

In addition, the study found that although chemotherapy treatment did not specifically act on cancer cells when used alone, the treatment effectiveness was improved in combination with CAR-T cell treatment.

Combination therapies represent a huge opportunity for cancer drugs, and this technology will help pharmaceutical companies find new treatments.

The study also included researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, led by Dr. Seth Coffelt. The work has been published in the IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology

The research was led by Dr. Michele Zagnoni, a Reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and recently graduated PhD student Karla Paterson.

dr. Zagnoni said: “There are particular challenges in evaluating solid tumors, not only cancer cells but also those around them.

We are developing a technology platform that can accelerate the development of therapies and provide models that are much more representative of what happens in the body than what is currently available.

We provide a platform for labs to run tests before clinical trials that consume less resources and scale cost-effectively.

CAR-T cell development is expensive and patient-derived tissue is a limited resource. Our goal is to enable 20 to 50 times more experiments under these conditions.”

dr. Michele Zagnoni, a reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

The technology will be commercialized by ScreenIn3D, a pre-spinout company co-founded in 2018 by Dr. Zagnoni, the company’s CEO, and Alex Sim, the Executive Chair. Karla Paterson works for the company as an application specialist, together with Jolanta Beinarovica. It was founded with the support of Strathclyde’s IP & Commercialization team.

This study stems from a larger project that was recently named joint winner of Strathclyde’s Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Award for an Outstanding Business Idea Research Paper. The award was created by a £50 million gift to the university in 2021 by the Charles Huang Foundation; £20 million in entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr Huang’s gift was made in honor of Professor Young, who died in August 2021, and who was Dr Huang’s PhD supervisor and mentor while studying at Strathclyde.

The research was funded by AMS Biotechnology Europe Ltd (AMSBIO).

Through the activities of its Health and Care Futures initiative, the University of Strathclyde uses its expertise and cutting-edge innovation in drug innovation, health technologies, data analytics and artificial intelligence, and its workforce and leadership to make an effective and sustainable contribution to the future. of health and care in the UK and beyond.


Reference magazine:

Paterson, K., et al. (2022) Assessment of CAR-T cell-mediated cytotoxicity in 3D microfluidic cancer co-culture models for combination therapy. IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology.

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