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Human Cancer Models Initiative Will Create Next Generation Cancer Models That Have Genomic and Clinical Data

, by Louis M. Staudt, M.D., Ph.D.

Microscopic image of colorectal cells grown into organoids

Credit: Foundation Hubrecht Organoid Technology

Experimental studies using cancer cell lines are an essential step in successful cancer research. Researchers use cell lines to discover new genes involved in cancer, test the biological function of genes, and even develop and evaluate new treatments. 

However, most cancer cell lines in use today do not provide scientists with a complete toolkit for their research. They lack the architecture and complexity of human tissue, as well as key information that can inform research, such as genomic and clinical profiles. Moreover, given the great genetic diversity of cancer, many common and rare subtypes of cancer are inadequately represented among existing cancer cell lines. That’s why the NCI has joined forces with the foremost experts in novel cell culture techniques to generate new models of cancer that more accurately represent human tumors.

Working Together Toward a Better Model of Cancer

The NCI will collaborate with Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the foundation Hubrecht Organoid Technology on this new project, called the Human Cancer Models Initiative (HCMI). By leveraging new technologies and international expertise, HCMI aims to generate approximately 1,000 new, next-generation cancer models. The cancer cell lines will be made available to investigators around the world to further their research. In addition, researchers will have access to data from genomic analysis of the new models as well as clinical characteristics of the patients who donated their biopsies, including their response to treatment. 

The Future of Cancer Models in Precision Oncology

Advanced cancer models developed by HCMI, together with their associated data, will allow researchers to explore mechanisms of cancer sensitivity and resistance to therapy, and relate these to genomic features of the models. These models may help to bridge the gap between new developments in the laboratory and effective treatments in the clinic. As such, NCI support of the HCMI is an integral component of the President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative.

Learn more about the Human Cancer Models Initiative

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