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UWRF professor testing 'living biopsy' approach to cancer treatment

March 4, 2015

A research project currently underway at UW-River Falls is blending basic science cancer research on artificial tissues conducted at the UWRF Tissue and Cellular Innovation Center (TCIC) with an existing technology from Microscopy Innovations, LLC, in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

The project holds significant potential for enhancing already effective cancer therapies by improving a physician’s knowledge of the specific biology of the tumors being treated.

The TCIC has extensive experience studying cancer using a variety of 3D artificial tissue engineering approaches in collaboration with physicians at Marshfield Clinic and elsewhere in the region. These techniques have already opened the door for TCIC director and UWRF biology Professor Timothy Lyden and his collaborators to explore a new approach to personalized cancer medicine.

This approach is referred to as the "living biopsy" technology and involves using an individual patient's tumor to build a library of 3D artificial tumor tissues in the laboratory. These individualized artificial tissues can then be used to study and evaluate the patient’s tumor for growth, invasion, and treatment responses during an extended period of culture.

The 3D culture technology and techniques developed at the TCIC provides a set of growth conditions that more closely resemble those of the normal body and so the behavior of these cultured 3D tumors also potentially reflect the original cancer more closely as well.

“This new collaboration with Microscopy Innovations allows for greater standardization of the already successful TCIC technology and so opens the door to final testing of the living biopsy approach to cancer analysis and treatment assistance,” Lyden said. “Once fully tested and validated, this laboratory tool set is expected to provide clinicians with a unique new insight into each individual patient’s case and so help them to develop the most effective individual therapeutic designs.”

This new collaborative, blending of TCIC knowledge and experience in 3D artificial tissue culture and engineering together with Microscopy Innovations capsule technology, is expected to generate the necessary foundational technology for a new start-up company as well. That new company, Artificial Tissue Systems (ATS), will focus on the commercial development and application of the “living biopsy” tool set approach to cancer diagnosis and therapy design.

Recently awarded “Regents Scholar” funding from the UW System Board of Regents will allow Lyden, in collaboration with Microscopy Innovations, to continue work on a prototype design of a miniature bioreactor system. At the same time, the studies conducted in this project with standard breast cancer cell lines will also help standardize the “living biopsy” toolset in preparation for testing with clinical samples next year.

For more information, call Lyden at 715-425-3362 or email timothy.lyden@uwrf.edu.