This is exciting! In June I wrote about a myeloma research breakthrough made at my Alma Matter, the University of Wisconsin. Since then one of the lead investigators, Chorom Pak, has been kind enough to email me updates and insightful explanations about their work.
If you would like to review, here is the original post and link to the researcher’s work:
I’d like to share Chorom’s fascinating email with you now:
In multiple myeloma, and other cancers, the myeloma cancer cells co-exist with a number of different normal, or non-cancer, cells in the tumor microenvironment, which for myeloma would be in the bone marrow. These so-called normal cells include other normal blood cell types, as well as some stem cells, endothelial cells, etc. There is a large, and growing, body of literature showing that these other cell types play an important role in myeloma cancer cell survival, growth, and resistance to therapy. Therefore, when studying myeloma, it would make sense to incorporate these other cells.
In the past, this has been technically challenging to accomplish using patient bone marrow aspirate samples. In fact, when I first started myeloma research as a graduate student 7 yrs ago in Dr. Shigeki Miyamoto’s lab, we could only analyze about half of the myeloma patient samples, even when we were only looking at the cancer cells, simply because the cell count was too low! We really had to find a solution so we teamed up with a biomedical engineering group at UW-Madison, Dr. David Beebe’s group. Four years later, we finally had a design able to analyze low numbers of cells. Because of the miniaturized qualities of the device, we were also able to culture together both myeloma cancer cells and non-cancer cells from the same patient. This was a huge leap forward as this was impossible to do in the past.
We realized that by being able to co-culture both myeloma cancer and non-cancer cells from the same patient allowed us to make a little ex vivo model of someone’s own cancer. This meant that it was possible that this model was potentially more accurate than other cancer models and drug testing platforms (i.e. cell lines, mouse models, patient cancer cells alone, etc). We tried testing bortezomib first because as I’m sure you know, it is a common component of many myeloma therapies. Using fresh bone marrow aspirates from a small number of patients, we tested the ex vivo response of patient myeloma cells in the ‘petri’ dish to bortezomib; we basically measured whether they lived or died in response. We then retrospectively compared this petri dish response to patient clinical responses and astonishingly, all matched up! The entire process takes about 3 days from bone marrow sample to results and is named MicroC3 (microfluidic cis-coculture). The results are published as a cover story in Integrative Biology if you, or anybody else, is curious and would like to read it.
Now as a very early stage company, Lynx Biosciences, we are working to test this in a prospective setting with larger numbers of patients to prove predictive capabilities of this technology and expanding to testing of other drugs. We are always looking for partnerships with different companies so if you know of anyone who is interested, please let me know!
At the end of the day, our goal is to shift the current empiric treatment of multiple myeloma (and other blood cancers) to individualized predictive therapy. This is not a new idea and there are many great people striving towards this goal. However, we believe that our technology truly has the potential to achieve this goal in a uniquely simple and rapid manner.
It’s good to see you making jokes. Please let me know if there is any other information you’d like from me. I hope you continue to do well!
Thank you and best regards,
These people are so smart! It warms my heart and gives me hope knowing so many are working so hard to help keep us alive! How fortunate I am to have made a friend like Chorom.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat