In this joint project, NCATS will use patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tumor microtissues, provided by InSphero in its 384-well microtissue platform, to screen a library of anti-cancer agents for anti-tumor efficacy using assays that measure cell proliferation, tissue integrity, and tissue size.

“For cancer drug discovery, it is of critical importance to have models that are physiologically relevant,” says InSphero Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder Jens M. Kelm, Ph.D. “3D microtissue models provide a more accurate reflection of the tumor and its extracellular environment.” The latest generation of PDX-derived 3D tumor microtissues from InSphero capture the heterogeneity of tumor cell populations, making them ideal for investigating special tumor cell sub-populations, including cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells. These cells have self-renewal potential and are thought to drive tumor formation and metastasis. CSCs appear to be resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation-therapy treatments leading to cancer recurrence, thus there is a heightened interest among oncologists to be able to screen therapeutic agents that target CSCs and other tumor cell sub-populations.

“To unlock the full potential of more relevant models to foster drug development we need to be able to integrate patient-derived 3D cancer models into the drug screening process as early as possible,” says Dr. Kelm. InSphero will work closely with researchers at NCATS to evaluate how PDX-derived tumor microtissues can be applied in primary and secondary screening campaigns using small to mid-size compound libraries.

“Our project with InSphero is another example of how NCATS fosters collaborations to explore novel technologies that may accelerate discovery of molecular therapeutic agents across multiple disease areas,” says Anton Simeonov, Ph.D., scientific director of NCATS’ Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation.

For more information about NCATS, visit https://ncats.nih.gov.

For more information about InSphero, visit www.insphero.com.