An exclusive interview with:
There’s been a lot of hype around 3-D models, with some going so far to say they will replace animal models in the near future. What do you consider to be the greatest opportunity 3-Dmodels present for cancer research?
I’d say there are at least two major opportunities for 3-D models. One is in the area of immuno oncology. Tumors typically are three-dimensional, and the process by which immune cells escape from the circulation, migrate through the tissue, and attack the tumor cannot be modeled in a simple 2D environment. The second opportunity comes from our own experience in looking at metastatic cancer. Metastasis involves a sequence of steps, starting with invasion into the local tissue, migration to a vascular or lymphatic vessel, convection through the circulation to another tissue, escape from the circulation into the remote organ, and survival and proliferation. Any of these steps could be an important factor in determining the ability of a cancer to spread. Several involve interactions between the tumor cells and the vasculature, and here again, 2D models just don’t have the capability to recapitulate what happens in the patient.
What’s needed to install confidence and encourage further adoption of these models beyond academia into pharma?
Despite much encouraging academic research,much of it published in top-tier journals, the pharmaceutical industry has not yet taken full advantage of these advances by incorporating them into their drug discovery pipeline. I think this comes from several factors. First of all, industry requires screening methods that are extensively validated, robust, and highly consistent between different users, and even between different labs. They also need the capability of performing screens with at least moderate if not high throughput
capabilities. Academic researchers tend not to focus on these aspects, so there remains a gap between the technologies being developed in academic institutions and their adoption by industry.
In addition, there are only a few companies, mostly new start-ups, capable of manufacturing and marketing systems with these new capabilities. These will grow in size and number, but it will take some time.
What are you looking forward to most at the 2nd Annual 3D Tissue Models Oncology Summit?
I am looking forward to gaining more insight into academic developments and how they are pushing forward our research and translational approach, while learning the industrial needs from many leaders in this MPS field. I hope to further establish deeper connections with my peers in this field for increased collaboration and learning.