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Wake Forest Organoid Research Center Receives $2.5M NCI Grant

NEW YORK – Wake Forest Baptist Health on Tuesday said the National Cancer Institute has awarded a $2.5 million grant to a program using organoids to research how genomic changes in aggressive cancers impact patients' responses to treatment.

The funds will support the work of the Wake Forest Organoid Research Center, which aims to advance personalized treatments for patients and is run by the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Researchers will use the grant to develop a drug testing platform using patient-derived tumor organoids to predict treatment outcomes for patients. These organoids, grown from pieces of patients' own tumor tissue, model the biology of their tumor cells. Using these models, researchers are studying how genetic changes that occur within tumor cell as they multiply allow certain clonal cell population to survive and become resistant to treatments.

"How patients respond to treatment varies widely, and this represents a major clinical challenge our grant seeks to address," Lance Miller, a coprincipal investigator of the grant and associate professor of cancer biology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, said in a statement. "This genetic variation that occurs when the cancer cells multiply is believed to explain why most, but not all of a patient's cancer can initially respond well to chemotherapy, but eventually return in a drug-resistant form."

Researchers will use organoids to explore clonality-based treatment responses in high-prevalence cancers, as well as rare tumors that occur in one in 100,000 patients, such as cancers in the appendix. They also expect to apply the learnings from this project to a future clinical trial.