October 1, 2014

Optical imaging in drug therapy screens

A non-invasive imaging tool could test potential cancer therapies quickly to personalize therapy for patients.

Oncologists treating breast cancer patients now rely on tumor expression of several proteins to choose therapies for individual patients. However, it can take weeks to determine if tumors are shrinking or if the cancer is resistant to anti-cancer therapy.

Melissa Skala, Ph.D., and colleagues used optical metabolic imaging (OMI) of primary tumors maintained in 3D-culture to assess the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs or drug combinations in as little as 72 hours. OMI uses laser light to excite molecules, allowing investigators to measure metabolic activity in cells when molecules light up through autofluorescence.

The new research, published in the Sept. 15 issue of Cancer Research, included testing of well-accepted as well as experimental breast cancer therapies in cells and mouse models. The investigators validated the findings and established the feasibility of this approach through testing of human breast tumor samples.

This approach could test potential therapies quickly and with minimal cost to personalize therapy for patients.

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program, the National Institutes of Health (CA142888, CA098131), Vanderbilt and the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro.

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