Looking beyond the cancer cell
Modeling the microenvironment
By Hilary Graham
Today, scientists recognize that Paget’s observations were valid and that when developing new treatments for patients, both the seed and the soil should be considered. Yet, many scientific experiments continue to rely on studying cells that are grown in plastic dishes, living conditions that are completely artificial and, therefore, inherently biased.
Taking a new path, Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D., professor in Molecular and Cellular Oncology, is leveraging data from the Cancer Genome Atlas to conduct in vivo context-specific screens that will identify new genetic elements deregulated in cancer.
Once a promising target is identified, his group performs these screens in the appropriate organ context to validate the target. By directly studying patient tumor tissue samples that often resist standard of care, his research group ensures that research findings are directly applicable to patients, who currently have no therapeutic options.
In collaboration with MD Anderson’s Center for Co-Clinical Trials, they’re also generating new mouse-model systems that carefully control for lineage, genetic and microenvironmental influences. Draetta envisions that in the near future similar analyses will be available for individual patient tumors — making personalized medicine a reality.
|Cancer Type||Main sites of metastasis*|
|Bladder||Bone, liver, lung|
|Breast||Bone, brain, liver, lung|
|Colorectal||Liver, lung, peritoneum|
|Kidney||Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver, lung|
|Lung||Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver|
|Melanoma||Bone, brain, liver, lung, skin/muscle|
|Ovary||Liver, lung, peritoneum|
|Pancreas||Liver, lung, peritoneum|
|Prostate||Adrenal gland, bone, liver, lung|
|Stomach||Liver, lung, peritoneum|
|Thyroid||Bone, liver, lung|
|Uterus||Bone, liver, lung, peritoneum, vagina|
*Taken from the National Cancer Institute fact sheet on metastatic cancer.
In This Issue
- No. 1 again for MD Anderson
- Where you live may raise your risk of obesity
- Abbott acquires MD Anderson technology company
- Check out Conquest on your iPad
Signs of hope: