Using tissue-on-chip technology to assess GBM treatments

Using tissue-on-chip technology to assess GBM treatments

This research will use an ex-vivo model to assess responses of glioblastoma tumour cells to drugs.
Official Title: Establishing an exivo preclinical GBM model in Leeds
Lead Researcher: Dr Lucy Stead, Associate Professor at University of Leeds
Where: University of Leeds, in collaboration with University of Hull
When: July 2021-April 2023
Grant awarded: £5,897
Research Type: Glioblastoma

The glioblastoma (GBM) is by far the most common and deadly form of adult brain cancer.

Currently, standard treatment consists of debulking surgery to remove tumour cells, and chemoradiation. However, almost 100% of glioblastomas recur between six and nine months later, leading to an average survival rate of just 15 months following diagnosis.

Understanding what allows these tumours to grow back will help us to more effectively treat GBM.

Dr Lucy Stead's research focuses on profiling primary and recurrent glioblastoma cells to assess how the cells change in response to treatment, and to find out what might be causing treatment resistance. 

Currently, these tests are carried out in vitro, by taking cells from patients and growing them as spheroids in test tubes. However, this model can't replicate the architecture of the natural tumour environment, so tests might not be accurate. The Stead lab is planning to adopt a new ex-vivo model in Leeds using state-of-the-art tissue-on-chip technology.

Glioblastoma tumour pieces will be placed on a series of microfluidic chips. Fluid containing nutrients will be flowed over the chips to replicate the cells' "natural" environment, and the chip also removes waste products and keeps the tumour at body temperature. This means the success of various treatments can be tested on viable, "living" cells. This ex-vivo model can be used to test different drugs which will hopefully inhibit the molecules which are suspected to be causing treatment resistence.

YBTC has awarded Lucy Stead a research grant to install this ex-vivo model in Leeds, in collaboration with Dr Pedro Beltran-Alvarez from the University of Hull. Lucy will also be working alongside Rhiannon Barrow, a third-year PhD student funded by Brain Research UK.

The team will perform some preliminary tests on up to 10 patient samples to show that the cells on the microchips respond to treatments in the same way patients do, so that they can confidently use the model to predict how patients will respond to the new treatments they trial on the chips.

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