Study: Cancer Cell Lines Help Predict Drug Response

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Cancer cell lines could provide viable pathways to determining how tumors respond to specific anti-cancer drugs.

A new study published in Cell determined that patient-derived cancer cell lines contain the same genetic mutations found in a patient’s tumors and could provide pathways to discovering how tumors respond to specific anti-cancer drugs. Studying these cancer cell line-drug interactions could provide a viable method for developing more personalized cancer treatments, researchers say.

The study, published on July 7, 2016, was led by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), and the Netherlands Cancer Institute. Scientists examined data from 1001 cell lines and 11,289 tumors. Researchers also measured the response of the cell lines to 265 anti-cancer drugs. Results indicated cell lines were effective models for identifying useful anti-cancer drugs. Further, the molecular abnormalities found in patient tumors and cell lines are similar, and can be strong predictors of cancer cell survival.

“In this study we compared the genetic landscape of patient tumors with that of cancer cells grown in the lab,” Matthew Garnett, joint leader of the study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said in a press announcement. “We found that cell lines do carry the same genetic alterations that drive cancer in patients. This means that drug sensitivity testing in cell lines can be used to figure out how a tumor is likely to respond to a drug.”

Studying these interactions is important to cancer research because it has the potential to allow oncologists to match patient tumors to cancer cell lines, and better target effective treatments. While we are a long way off from using this as a practical method, researchers say this provides “insights into cancer biology and to accelerate the development of patient stratification strategies for clinical trial design.”


“If a cell line has the same genetic features as a patient’s tumor, and that cell line responded to a specific drug, we can focus new research on this finding,” says Fracesco Iorio, joint first author and postdoctoral researcher at EMBL-EBI, and the Sanger Institute, in a statement. “This could ultimately help assign cancer patients into more precise groups based on how likely they are to respond to therapy.”

Source: Cell, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute