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3-D Models Devised to Simulate Patients’ Tumors

Gioeli lab group

Dan Gioeli, rear, and lab colleagues (University of Virginia)

8 May 2018. A university lab is teaming up with a local biotechnology company to develop realistic models of tumors from individual cancer patients, enabling more personalized treatment options. Microbiologist Dan Gioeli at the University of Virginia medical school in Charlottesville and colleagues from HemoShear Therapeutics LLC, in which Gioeli has a financial stake, plan to describe the model at the 3D Tissue Models Oncology conference now underway in Boston.

Gioeli’s lab at Virginia studies the mechanistic forces underlying cell signaling networks found in cancer and that contribute to the disease’s progression. Among the group’s interests is simulation of those forces in lab models that make it possible to study the effects of these forces on possible cancer therapies under controlled conditions to design more effective treatments. The models reflect key factors affecting dynamics between blood flow and various types of tissue, which directly influence drugs’ activity in tumors and their supporting environment.

HemoShear Therapeutics, also in Charlottesville, began partnering with Gioeli’s lab in 2016 to help validate the company’s technology. The collaboration enabled Gioeli to take a leave of absence from the university and work full time as the company’s director of cancer biology, with the partnership continuing after Gioeli’s return to the university. The result is a refined core technology for blood flow-tissue modeling, HemoShear calls Reveal-Tx. The company says it uses Reveal-Tx in some 20 models of solid tumor cancers, as well as vascular, metabolic, and liver diseases, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.

Tumor models studied by Gioeli and HemoShear include pancreatic and non-small cell lung cancer, which contain various types of cells. The models, says Gioeli, faithfully reproduce the shearing effects of blood flow in tumors that affect endothelial cells lining the insides of blood vessels, which other models so far do not.”This model enables us to understand the inner workings of tumors to systematically identify and test new ways to treat cancer,” says Gioeli in a university statement, adding that the model “incorporates tumor hemodynamics and biological transport in a way that other tumor models do not.”

The model also offers a way to for physicians to find the optimum treatments for individual patients, based on performance of the drug in the model before given to the patient. Gioeli says a sample of the tumor tissue, in many cases already taken in a biopsy, can personalize the model. “We believe,” he notes, “this model can be used for the rapid evaluation of novel precision therapies.”

HemoShear already employs Reveal-Tx as a drug discovery platform that makes it possible to evaluate drug candidates in quantities and concentrations similar to humans. In October 2017, the company began a joint project with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company to discover new drugs for NASH, a chronic disorder affecting nearly 16 million people in the U.S., and a risk factor for cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. The company also developed models to discover treatments for rare metabolic disorders affecting children.

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