The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


28 Nov 2016

Personalised medicine is becoming reality through organoid technology

Written by Professor Elizabeth Vincan.

Dr Dustin Flanagan, post-doctoral fellow in my laboratory, returned recently from a three-week visit to the laboratory of Professor Hans Clevers in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Being able to grow patient-derived tissue in the lab as 3D organoids has made personalised treatment for various types of malignancy and hereditary disease a reality. This innovation has been achieved through the research of Professor Hans Clevers.

The Dyason-funded fellowship allowed Dr Flanagan to learn the many facets of patient-derived organoid Biobanking and organoid culture techniques not yet established in Australia.

Patient-derived organoid technology is of particular importance to cancer treatment as the patient-derived tumour organoids grown in tissue culture respond to anti-cancer drugs in the same way as the patient.

This means that a patient’s cancer cells can be screened for sensitivity to drugs and the patient treated with the correct drugs from the outset, avoiding unnecessary treatment.

The expertise gained is invaluable to establishing an Australian equivalent biobank, a collaborative effort between the University of Melbourne, Doherty Institute, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and several hospitals and other institutes.

Like its counterpart, the Australian biobank will provide better patient outcomes through personalised care.

In addition to personalising cancer treatment, organoids established from normal tissues collected at the time of tumour tissue collection, means that we can now grow mini-organs such as gut, stomach and liver, in the lab.

These are as ‘near to human’ models of infection as one can get – and we can now unravel the process of natural infection of human tissues with viruses and bacteria.