Cell lines often poorly represent the tumour of origin and are a major hurdle in establishing therapeutic targets and in understanding mechanisms that contribute to disease progression. To address this, research into growing cells from patient biopsies, sometimes called patient “avatars”, has progressed. Typically, these avatars are mice transplanted with the patient tumour tissue. These patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) are now firmly established as a model for testing drugs. They continue to face a number of drawbacks however. They can be difficult to establish, and the “take” rate can be between 0–51% depending on tumour type. Establishing models is also expensive and takes months. At Imagen we are creating models in vitro directly from the patient’s tumour and these represent a valid alternative to the PDX route. Patient-derived cell (PDC) models better represent original tumour characteristics than cell lines, and are quicker, less complex than PDX in-vivo models. Our data on multiple tumour types supports these models as powerful tools for drug discovery. Each of our models is phenotypically tested against 60 different therapies, is exome sequenced and has full RNAseq data generated. This allows specific cohorts of models to be chosen based upon particular biomarkers or, by being tumour agnostic, we can potentially discover new biomarkers using an AI approach.
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